The end of a driveway in Freeland is an unlikely place for a shelf of books, but in the shade of the trees at 4500 S. Smugglers Cove Road sits the first Little Free Library on Whidbey Island.
Housed in a glass-fronted, eye-catching purple and green wooden house, a neat row of books waits for new owners. From the historical world of “To Kill a Mockingbird” to the magic of “Harry Potter” and the current events portrayed in “The Kite Runner,” Mildred Erickson keeps her Little Library stocked with a healthy variety of titles.
At 93 years old, Erickson, a retired high school teacher, has collected a number of books over her lifetime.
“I need to try to get them into the community in some way and I thought this would be a good way to do that,” Erickson said.
Little Free Library is a worldwide movement encouraging volunteers to set up miniature libraries so people can borrow or trade books. There are Little Libraries all over the United States, Europe and some in Africa and Asia.
“That’s the point: spreading literacy and the love of reading. To help people to remember there are books as wells as Nooks,” Erickson laughed. “I’m not particularly interested in their leaving books. I’m interested in them taking books and passing them along to friends.”
Another goal of Little Free Library is to “put up more (libraries) than Andrew Carnegie did, and we have exceeded that,” Erickson said. There are more than 2,500 Little Libraries around the world.
Since Aug. 18 when Erickson opened her library, 10 or 12 books have disappeared, and she received a few different titles in return. While she might read a Mary Higgins Clark title left in her library, Erickson frowned at the idea of reading the James Patterson novel she found. It’s difficult to compete with her all-time favorite book, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” She emphasized that readers don’t need to return or trade books; they are free to the community.
What she does enjoy receiving in return are notes. She displayed a handful of handwritten thank you notes from patrons locally and from Bellevue and Wenatchee.
“I love your idea,” one note read, while another said that the writer is also the steward of a Little Library on the mainland and left a contact number.
“This is my fun. It’s kind of a personal connection,” Erickson said of receiving notes. She has since added a notepad and pencil to her Little Library to encourage further communication.
Getting her Little Library started was simple, Erickson said. Stewards must register at www.littlefreelibrary.org and can download plans for building a library, or get creative on their own. Erickson’s daughter, Barbara Zander, learned about Little Free Library from a friend who created one.
“They thought it would be a good way to distribute some of my books that I’m trying to get rid of,” Erickson said.
Zander’s husband, Tom Zander, an architect, built the Little Library and Barbara, an artist, painted it.
“That’s what the neighbors like — the fact that it’s a little spot of color right there,” Erickson said.
Erickson has received a lot of positive feedback since she put up her Little Library. On the day she set it up, her mailman, Sam Wolfe, took five books for himself and his wife.
“I would like to encourage others to get their books out in front of their houses and let the passing parade take them,” Erickson said. “I’ve been encouraged by what’s happened so far.”
Books of poetry, beloved copies of Ernest Hemingway and treasured novels by Charles Dickens wait in Erickson’s basement for their chance to find new homes through the Little Library.
“This is one of the nicest things I’ve done… That and to ride in a Porsche were the two exciting things to happen to me,” Erickson laughed.
Find out more about the Little Free Library project at www.littlefreelibrary.org.