Little free libraries promote literacy in Brattleboro

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BRATTLEBORO — Hoarding books does no one any good, says Georgia Morgan, the new owner of a little free library at 40 Belmont Ave.

Little free libraries is a movement to set up free book exchanges across the world. Morgan first read about the concept 10 years ago, and she knew she had to have one. "It just seemed like a cool idea," she said.

It wasn't until recently, when Brooks Memorial Library started selling little houses set up on posts with the words "Little Free Library" written on them, that Morgan's dream was realized.

The little libraries were given to Brooks Memorial Library by the Rotary Club of Brattleboro. "We can't take any credit for this at all," said Library Director Starr LaTronica.

The Rotary Club had local artists Robert Craig Aldrich, Bob Cincotta, Pat Little, John McCarthy, Susan Rosano, Kim Stice and Suzy Worden paint the houses. The library then sold five of the houses, but one remains. LaTronica said it's being raffled off during Strolling of the Heifers on Saturday at 10 a.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at Brooks Memorial Library. All proceeds will go to the Friends of Brook Memorial Library.

Morgan said there's a lot of reasons to set up a little free library. For starters, she said, it builds community. "It was definitely an opportunity for me to meet my neighbors," she said. "I never had a reason before to knock on doors." It's also fun to watch people come by and take books, she added.

Morgan is a self-admitted book hoarder. "I have books from when I was in high school ... They were an important part of my life," she said. When she moved from Illinois, she said, she downsized two-thirds of her book collection.

"Some of it was no loss. They were books I'd owned for 40 years and never opened," she said. Those books were easier to give away; she knew she'd never read them. "As much as I might like to," she said.

She still brought more books with her to Vermont than she had room for, despite purchasing additional bookshelves. She kept them, she said, because she hoped she could pass them along to other people, but that rarely ever happened. Now, with a little free library, she's helping books get read.

She has two boxes worth of books that she rotates in and out of the library. She likes to keep a selection of books for all ages. Some are geared towards adults, some towards young adults, some towards children. She'd like to think there's something for everyone to read.

Recently somebody dropped off a box of 10 different books at her house, and two of the books caught her eye.

"Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" by Kate Douglas Wiggin and "Lost Horizon" by James Hilton both are in the library's rotation box but, Morgan said, if they're left unpicked for a few weeks she'll give them a try.

She doesn't think the little free libraries will take away from the purpose of a public library. She herself is still an avid library user.

"I got a library card before I registered my car in Vermont," she said.

To her, it's just another way to promote literacy. "Sometimes you want a more, nearly, personal way of passing that on," she said.

There are three little free libraries registered in Brattleboro, according to littlefreelibraries.org: Morgan's, one on 610 Meadowbrook Rd. and one at The One Cat, a bed and breakfast on 43 Clark St. Morgan said she also found one at Bradley House, 65 Harris Ave, and one near Green Street School.

Harmony Birch can be reached at hbirch@reformer.com, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.

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