Sharing the love of books

Small wooden boxes are rapidly popping up throughout our nation's neighborhoods, perched on posts, stationed in the front yards of book lovers, stocked with classic tales and modern sagas, along with the occasional thank you note. These boxes are part of the Little Free Library program, a place for neighbors to share their favorite works of literature with a "take a book leave a book" philosophy.

Little Free Library is an organization established in 2009 by Todd Bol and Rich Brooks in Wisconsin, and their idea has quickly spread throughout the country and the world. Their goal is simple: to promote the love of reading and literacy with the exchange of free books worldwide. As of January of this year, there were over 15,000 libraries built in the world, with thousands more being registered each month. Currently, there are two Little Free Libraries in Petaluma, which were started by Hogan Dinsmore and Sarah Young.

Dinsmore, age 12, installed his Little Free Library as part of his sixth-grade community service project.

"I had a community service project that I had to do for my school, so I decided that I could do that for my project," said Dinsmore.

Young unintentionally became involved with the program, and found herself as the steward of a new library.

"My daughter and son-in-law gave one to me for Christmas," said Young. "I had never seen one before."

One of the services offered by Little Free Library is the option to purchase a library box off of their website, custom made or one of their original boxes. These boxes run from $280 to more than $800 for the most ornate and decorated. Hogan bought one of the plain wood boxes, which are the most affordable, and made it his own upon its arrival.

"We got it pre-made from the website, and I just painted it," said Dinsmore.

Young received a beautiful pre-painted box as her gift, which she said receives plenty of visitors.

"There is somebody there every time that I'm out in the yard working. People always stop by," said Young.

So far, the "take a book, leave a book" honor system is holding true for Hogan's library.

"We haven't had to proctor it too much, it's been really good," said Edie Chaska, Dinsmore's mother. "We have lots of variety. One woman always brings mystery novels, and once we saw her bring her children over to look at all of the books that are in the box."

The taking and replacing activity is more irregular at Young's library, despite the amount of visitors.

"It's more sporadic. Some people will leave three or four books and not take any, but then some people will take a book but not leave any. It's not always a take- and-give situation," said Young.

Her library is supplemented by neighbors, who often leave books with her to place in the library when the stash wears thin.

Dinsmore's library essentially functions on its own, and rarely has to be restocked.

The work of stewards worldwide continues the dream of two men who made it their mission to share good books and bring people together in the simplest of ways. Through the acts of sharing and generosity, their program has blossomed into a worldwide trend that continues to rapidly expand.

Hogan's Little Free Library is located at 422 Walnut St. Young's library is located at 5 N. Napa Drive. Remember to bring a book or two to leave.

To learn more about the Little Free Library program, see where other libraries are located around the country or find out how to start one, visit littlefreelibrary.org.

(Contact Michaela Western at argus@arguscourier.com)