You’ve probably seen them: the hand-painted birdhouses filled with books, designed to increase community access to reading material.
The take-a-book, leave-a-book concept has become popular in Charlotte, and the city now has about 100 registered Little Free Libraries.
Most Little Libraries are concentrated in south Charlotte neighborhoods, such as Barclay Downs and Dilworth.
But in some neighborhoods, there are few Little Free Libraries. The city of Charlotte is helping to fix that.
Oaklawn Park, a neighborhood northwest of Uptown, has only one registered Little Free Library. Resident Tiffany Hughes thought it’d be a good addition after seeing one in her old neighborhood.
To purchase the library, Hughes took advantage of a neighborhood matching grant from the city of Charlotte. The grant is given to neighborhoods to help make improvements, and the city matches what the neighborhood raises.
The city will match cash donations, but also volunteer hours. That’s how Hughes paid for the Little Free Library.
After she ordered and assembled the library, Hughes held a community event to paint it — a party complete with hot dogs and chips.
“I wanted to make sure the community understood that it was theirs,” she said.
While some little libraries exist primarily for children, Hughes caters to everyone. She said she puts all sorts of books in the library, and they all fly off the shelf.
She said books from African-American authors tend to be most popular because she lives in a primarily African-American neighborhood, but people pick up everything from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” to Alan Greenspan’s autobiography.
Hughes isn’t the only supplier of books — she said the Beatties Ford Road Regional public library has donated children’s books to the Little Free Library.
The Beatties Ford Road branch is the closest public library to Oaklawn Park — about a mile and a half down the road. It’s the only one in the area, so Hughes said it gets a ton of business.
In the almost two years since Hughes got her Little Free Library, she’s seen a few more pop up in surrounding neighborhoods.
Hughes said her neighborhood’s Little Free Library has been a hit since the start. She’s enjoyed meeting her neighbors and chatting with kids about what books they want to read next.
Want to set up a Little Free Library? Visit littlefreelibrary.org for more information.