Left without a library, the Parkside neighborhood has taken matters into its own hands.
In a few months, 10 wooden stands will be placed in front of homes and businesses. The “little libraries” will be filled with books that passers-by can take and return as they please.
No library cards, registration or fees required.
“We’re trying to create that third space, not home, not work, where neighbors congregate and interact,” said Ben Johnson, executive director of the Parkside Community Association.
The library stands won’t be on commercial strips, or on corners, but will be placed in the middle of the block, between the sidewalk and street, and facing the sidewalk, to appeal to pedestrians, not motorists. “Just so we don’t get a lot of through traffic stopping by and using these,” Johnson said.
Parkside, home to 2,600 people and 1,900 households, lost the Fairfield Library in 2005, and things haven’t been the same since, residents said. “We’re trying to use this little library system to shame the county,” Johnson said.
When the association brought the idea to its members, the response was enthusiastic.
“Parkside’s kind of a literary community anyway,” said Ruth Lampe, who will host a stand in front of her Crescent Avenue home. “It just makes sense that we pioneer such a program.”
The community is trusting that the stands, and the books, won’t be abused. Lampe said she doesn’t expect problems.
The Parkside association will be ultimately responsible for maintaining the stands, though each of 10 block clubs will landscape the area around the little libraries and choose the types of books to place in them.
The weather-resistant book stands will feature a pitched roof with a shelf and Plexiglas doors, and will house 20 or 30 books, Johnson said.
They will be constructed with reclaimed wood by Rusted Grain, a woodworking cooperative on Northampton Street.
Rusted Grain already has built a book stand for the Oxford Square Neighborhood Association, which is in place at Oxford and Lafayette avenues.
Shortly after the stand was installed, Rusted Grain owner Megan McNally saw a father taking a picture of his daughter in front of it.
“Buffalo is such a friendly city in general, it just works here,” McNally said.
The Oxford block club got the idea from Johnson, who got the idea from Little Free Library Ltd., which began in Wisconsin and promotes putting library stands in public spaces and front yards. It counts nearly 3,000 such stands in the United States and elsewhere.
The stand on Oxford was installed quickly because it is on land that the block club leases and doesn’t need city approval, said club President Alyssa K. Weiss. It was filled with 100 books; 75 have been taken out, and some have already been returned, Weiss said.
The Parkside group received book donations from neighbors and bookstores, and will use a $5,000 grant from Delaware District Council Member Michael J. LoCurto’s office to pay for the libraries.
A request for permission to install the book stands on city rights of way will be considered by the city Planning Board and the Common Council.