By JOSHUA VALIQUETTE
Capital News Service
LANSING— With the closure of public libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Free Libraries have helped fill the void and given families new books to read while they’re stuck at home.
In communities across the state, avid readers have created these little libraries, usually a decorated box full of books where anyone is welcome to take a book and leave one for the next person who comes along.
There are over a thousand Little Free Libraries across Michigan, almost one for every community in the Lower Peninsula, according to Little Free Library’s website.
Since the temporary closure of libraries and children out of school, Little Free Library owners have seen their books fly off their shelves.
“It is hard for me to keep up with the books — kids with their families are constantly walking by and taking books,” said Ann Marie Cunningham, who lives in Cascade, near Grand Rapids.
And Douglas Stockwell of Prudenville said, “I keep books inside the backseat of my car just so when I drive by little libraries around my community I can restock them.”
Many owners have transferred their love for books to their community by creating Little Free Libraries.
“I’m a pastor by trade, but my Little Free Library is a passion and hobby of mine,” Stockwell said.
Owners build and stock their boxes with their own money and books.
“I spend $50 to $100 every month on restocking books. My only hope is that my little library can give young children a resource to learn how to read that hopefully starts a lifetime of reading,” Stockwell said.
Public libraries have supported their communities’ little libraries during the pandemic.
For example, the Leighton Township library is setting out bags full of free books that owners of little libraries can take to restock their shelves, said Karen Mckinnon the director of the library.
The creation of little libraries can bring communities together.
In Cascade, Cunningham created a Little Free Library with the aid of many of her neighbors. Of the 15 houses, seven of them helped to create the Little Free Library.
Every neighbor used his or her unique skills to create the little library.
“My neighbor is a carpenter and built the box, I am an artist and painted the library and my other neighbor installed it,” Cunningham said.
Others created Little Free Libraries in memory of their lost loved ones.
In Holland, Brenda VanderWege and her three children built their little library in memory of her late husband Jeff.
Combining her love of books and his love of woodworking, VanderWege said she and her children believed that building the little library in his name would be a good way to remember him and help their community.