Vicki and Marty Reid would never shush patrons of their front-yard library, an eye-catching box stuffed with books for readers of all ages.
People take and leave books at will on this Virginia Avenue sidewalk where Princeton and Griswold avenues meet, between the College and Enslen neighborhoods. It’s Modesto’s newest Little Free Library, one of some 32,000 in a fanciful literacy wave washing over much of the United States and beyond since starting six years ago in Wisconsin.
The Reids’, crafted with repurposed materials, has sparked smiles and conversations among strangers stopping for a look since it went up six weeks ago. It joins nine others in Modesto, according to an interactive map at http://littlefreelibrary.org; Patterson has one, and Turlock, two. The website has videos and instructions for people wanting to build their own, and the Reids say they’ll share more designs they’ve created with the curious.
Vicki Reid tells how their Little Free Library came to be.
Q: Do you have a personal interest in literacy, or just seek outlets for creative juices?
A: Both. I’m a proud teacher at Walter White Elementary School in Ceres, and we both are naturally creative and love doing things together.
Q: How did you come up with the unique style?
A: We collaborated. Marty had structural designs he wanted to try, specifically the curved roof. We brainstormed and I drew it up. We wanted a whimsical look, but also want the library to be sturdy and sound, to withstand the weather.
Old kitchen cabinet door, rubber commercial baseboard, used hardware, scrap wood Some items used to craft the Reids’ Little Free Library
Q: Who crafted it?
A: Marty is the builder. We work together on how we think the structure should come together, and we have discussions sometimes about whose idea will work best. I am very hands-on in the construction process. But he usually stays out of my way during painting. I rely on his opinions to help me dial it in. I would say we are a team.
Q: Talk about the neighborhood reaction to your Little Free Library.
A: It’s been incredible. I have met so many wonderful people. From the very first day we had people stopping and talking to us about it, requests for building another one, people loving the books and wanting to share and donate. There has been so much love and support from mere strangers. I have wonderful conversations with numerous people on a daily basis, and we couldn’t be more pleased.
Q: Give us some examples.
A: A wonderful lady came to my door and asked if she could look around our yard. I walked outside with my cup of coffee and we walked together over to the library. We talked about books, shared a few favorites, talked gardening as we strolled. We ended up by the wheelbarrow and she asked if she could take a few seeds off my dying marigolds, so I got her a baggie. It was such a sweet exchange.
People holler from their cars as they drive by, “I love it!” or “Great job!” I get a lot of thumbs-up and waves. I’m really surprised at the amount of people who stop and get out, introduce themselves and tell us how much they support our endeavor.
These are the best reasons to put up a Little Free Library: the community if fosters, the joy it brings, the smiles on passing faces, and books, books, books!
Q: Who stocks the box?
A: It’s a free library, so it’s give and take. ‘Take a book, leave a book’ is the motto, but if you don’t have a book to give, you can still take one. People enjoy leaving books and it’s fun to grab one on your walk or your way home from work. I get cars of kids and adults stopping to see what’s available. Many people have donated boxes of books. Every few days a car will stop and someone with a big smile will hand me a box or bag with several books.
Q: Do people leave notes?
A: Yes. I put a notepad in the library from Day One so I could get a feel for how people are enjoying it and to get suggestions or comments. Unfortunately the first notepad was taken with about 20 pages of sweet notes that I never saw again. I have received many more, though, and cherish all. For example:
▪ “What a wonderful thing! My grandchildren will love the books and so will I. We will bring some of ours!”
▪ “This is so beautiful. A perfect picture of happiness. Thank you for the beauty that you keep alive.”
▪ “I walk past every day and sometimes I see people talking or dropping off books and it warms my heart. If there were more people in our community like you, the world would be a much better place!”
Q: What advice would you give?
A: If you’re thinking about building a Little Free Library, think no more – do it. Your community and your neighbors will be grateful. Children’s books have been extremely popular. It is now a community project, not just our project. It has taken on a life of its own.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390