Jamonica Washington checks out a children’s book at the Lakewest YMCA’s Little Free Library. Photo: Courtney Collins
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No late fees, no due dates and no shushing librarians. Those are just some of the perks of the “Little Free Libraries” program.
The idea is simple. Build a basic structure, fill it with reading material and encourage people to borrow.
Even in a world that’s increasingly digital, a box of books can still be pretty magnetic.
West Dallas: New Development, Old Problems
When people think of West Dallas, the shiny new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge or the contemporary Trinity Groves restaurant incubator tends to come to mind.
But in a neighborhood known for fresh construction, some older community staples get overlooked.
“Since it’s still a developing area, we kind of got lost in the mix,” says Youth Development Director for the Lakewest Family YMCA Jamonica Washington. “So sometimes when you pull it up in the GPS it’s like, YMCA who?”
Washington says that’s kind of funny, because the Lakewest Y is actually 13 years old. There’s a lot that’s new about west Dallas, but the community has been around for a while and has some age-old problems. Hunger, poverty and literacy are all issues the YMCA tries to tackle. Their just-built Little Free Library is part of the process.
“Reading just kind of opens up a door to a whole new world and a whole other imagination. It gives kids the opportunity to learn things outside of their neighborhood and just kind of be involved and read together with their families.”
Half of the reading material is geared toward adults and seniors.
The Lakewest Y Little Free Library is a purple painted wooden rectangle with an easy-slide door.
It’s mounted next to a stained concrete bench. But for kids and teens to lounge on? A patch of bright green Astroturf that would make NFL stars jealous. This particular creation was designed by Scott Taylor and Leo Gonzalez who volunteered their time and expertise.
Another 16 Little Free Libraries are slated to go up in West Dallas and South Dallas. The Dallas Public Library, Big Thought and BC workshop, a non-profit design center, have teamed up to make it happen. One Little Free Library will be built inside a detention center. Another is made from a re-purposed paleta cart – one that used to be pushed around full of ice pops on hot summer days.
Library patrons can borrow a book and bring it back. Or bring a different book back to replace it. There aren’t many rules, and the honor system is the only enforcer.
Reading can be a tough sell, just ask 15-year-old Michael McCoy.
“I do it for school, sometimes for fun. It depends if I’m bored or not,” he laughs.
Which is why Little Free Libraries make it as easy as possible to dig in to a good book.
If you feel moved to build a Little Free Library, you don’t need a community center to back you. Your front yard or stoop are perfectly acceptable locations. Here’s a map of all registered Little Free Libraries. You can zoom in on your neighborhood.