With about 25 locations in the Central Florida area, Little Free Libraries have been popping up for a few years, promoting literacy and a sense of community.
The libraries are essentially a public cabinet for books, where community members are free to borrow a book or lend one back to the library in return.
The national movement has an estimated 25,000 registered little libraries around the world, according to the Little Free Library website.
Jannette Matos, a Jacksonville resident, opened five Little Free Libraries in Orlando. She constructed her first in Lake Baldwin Park, but now has locations in front of Dandelion Communitea Cafe, Phelps Park, Dinky Dock Park, another in Baldwin Park and another in Jacksonville.
“From the moment that I heard about the concept, I just fell in love with it,” Matos said. “It’s one of those things that really hits you and moves you.”
Matos began a Kickstarter campaign to build the libraries.
“I think people need to go back to reading books. It’s not the same to read something online as it is to actually hold a book in your hands,” she said. “At the same time, it’s not just reading the book, but the idea of ... that book going into somebody else’s hands.”
Nicole George, owner of the Little Free Library at 4607 Suntree Blvd. off University Boulevard and Dean Road, said she built her location with her boyfriend from scratch after visiting another one in the area. She wanted to bring similar opportunities to the community.
“I just thought it would be something nice to do for the neighborhood to promote literacy and to get people to read that may not read,” said George, a 2013 UCF alumna who received a degree in public administration and a certificate in nonprofit management.
George’s library, built in May, features a wide array of genres that she tries to switch up regularly. She said children’s books are recycled quickly, as well as books that appeal to the female demographic.
“People have really started bringing books and switching them out, but I like to try to switch it over a little more often, just so there’s a different selection,” she said.
In addition to books, George also keeps a guest book, dog treats and free bookmarks in her library.
As for one of the more memorable guest book notes, George was happy to find out that a mother from a Chinese family in the neighborhood was using the books as a way to teach herself and her sons English.
“It’s one of those things where we don’t talk to our neighbors a lot, we don’t see them all the time, but it’s nice to see they leave little messages in the guest book of the library — just a kind of a feel-good type thing that gets everybody involved,” George said.
Noelle Campbell is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Noellecampz or email her at NoelleC@CentralFloridaFuture.com.