"Take a book. Return a book."
This is the motto of the fast growing Little Free Library organization. It all started two and a half years ago when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., wanted to find a way to honor the memory of his mother, a former school teacher.
Todd decided to build a small two by two foot "school house" memorial that he would hang on a post, and fill with books for the public to borrow and return
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Liam Diehl, 4, helps his mother, Pollyanna Diehl, with the Little Free Library in front of their Walton Avenue, Altoona, home.
either the same book or a different book.
"From there, the idea of having a little personal library started to spread," explains Rick Brooks, Todd's co-founder of LFL. "It sort of promotes a sense of community and people love sharing their favorite books with their friends and neighbors."
Todd's LFL is still in operation today and Little Free Libraries can be found all over the world - including Altoona.
"In just over two years, there are LFL's in 28 countries, 48 states and 4 provinces," says Brooks. "And that's just the ones who have registered. Who knows how many others are out there."
In April, Ross and Pollyanna Diehl of Altoona registered their own LFL.
The Diehls first discovered the idea of LFL simply by coming across it on the Internet. After seeing how easy it can be to make a difference, they decided they should build one of their own.
"It's for everyone, kids and adults," said Pollyanna. "This really is a great way to share with the community and it's available all the time. It's not structured. There are no rules. Just respect it and use it!"
To register your own LFL, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org and pay a one-time fee of $25. A personal LFL identification number is then mailed as an official verification of your help and support.
Although the motto asks for the LFL users to take a book and then return a book, Pollyanna said that for their LFL, it's OK if you simply want to take a book and keep it, or donate books and not take any.
From children's books and adult books to magazines and digital media, Little Free Libraries are intended to allow for a wide range and variety of reading materials. Since April, although unsure of just how many people utilize their LFL, the Diehls have noticed that every so often a book would be taken or a new book would appear, which reinforced their desire to keep their operation strong and running.
Megan Keener of Altoona has visited the Diehls' LFL and believes the overall idea is powerful and effective.
"I have a lot of books and I don't want to throw them away," Keener said. "This is an interesting way to recycle books, and also a nice way to show community support. It's not huge, but it definitely makes an impact."