By Polly Keary, Editor
Louie Long has a purple library in front of his house.
It’s a small library, it is true, but it is part of what may be the most widespread library system in the world.
And you don’t need a card to use this library. You just need to be able to find it. And that takes a visit to a website that marks the locations of the micro-libraries in a worldwide system.
It’s a Little Free Library, a trend that has caught on around the globe, and thanks to Long, has now caught on in Monroe.
“It was an idea my daughter dropped in my ear,” said Long, standing at the end of his Robinhood Lane driveway next to a whimsical purple structure that looks like a bit like a large glass-doored birdhouse perched on a post. “She’s quite a bookworm. And she told me about this thing called littlefreelibrary.org.”
Little Free Library is a idea hatched by a man in Wisconsin. He set up a small dollhouse-sized box on a stand, filled it with books, and added a sign inviting passers-by to take a book and leave another.
The idea caught on in Wisconsin, with people building ever more creative little buildings, until the founders created a nonprofit organization.
As people built the libraries, they applied to littlefreelibrary.org for an official sign and inclusion on the location guide on the website. Now there are more than 10,000 libraries as far away as Australia and Afghanistan. And so clever are the little structures that there are now many social media pages devoted to pictures of them.
As the most cursory glimpse of Long’s 12th Man-themed front yard reveals, he’s quite handy and artistic, as well; two perfectly-shaped quarry boulders are painted with Seahawks logos, and tidy garden frames are already yielding spiky stands of garlic.
So when he decided to add a library to the global network, it was bound to be striking.
He created a wide, two-shelved box with a sloped roof and painted it purple. He added a hinged door with a four-paned window. The eaves were made of clear, thick plastic that he painted a contrasting purple, and he used the same plastic to make the roof, so that the little library has a skylight, to make seeing the books easier.
“Take a book, Leave a book,’ he wrote in dark purple paint.
Then he stocked it with some of his favorite books, both paperback and hard cover.
That was in September. A little over four months later, only two of the original books remain.
“It’s amazing how many people stop by, just about every day I bet,” said Long. “And the books keep coming in and out. Someone dropped off a whole trunk of books. It was great to see.”
People have been leaving nice books, too; best sellers, many recently published books, and books by popular authors like John Grisham and Stephen King.
But the best part is just the connection he’s been making with neighbors, said Long.
“I have the impression people take ownership,” he said. “I like the community effort of it.”
As he said that, two cars in a row honked as they passed, and the drivers waved.
Traffic to his little library may pick up soon; several months ago he sent in the picture of the completed library and the $30 needed to apply for inclusion in the worldwide micro library system. Last week, he was added to the registry.
Now, like a more literate form of geocaching, people in the know can make their way out to the little library to swap a book.
“It’s just a fun thing,” said Long.