Little Free Library has a big impact
In one month, Gresham's first Little Free Library had a quick and enthusiastic response
With shingles, windowpanes and weatherproofing, the Little Free Library on Northwest First Street stands sturdily for its rotating inhabitants - books and magazines whose selection and supply are determined by the neighbors who use it.
Jerry and Ann Klinger opened the Little Free Library (No. 686 in the national network) in front of their home, 1027 N.W. First St., almost a month ago, and the neighborhood took notice.
'We're amazed at the amount of people who exchange books in it,' Jerry said.
'It's fun to watch people,' Ann added. 'They'll stop, read the sign, sometimes they'll look inside, sometimes they just walk away. But either way, they always walk away with a smile.'
The Klingers cruised Portland neighborhoods earlier this year to check out Little Free Libraries - house-like structures just big enough for books - after reading about the movement, which started with a Little Free Library book exchange in Wisconsin and grew to a coast-to-coast presence.
But the Klingers' is the first in Gresham.
'A friend said to me, the Kindle (e-reader) will take the place of books,' Ann said.
'Not in our house,' Jerry interjected.
'I thought that was just terrible,' Ann said.
So Jerry scrounged parts from neighbors and antique stores and built a sturdy little library - with quirky additions such as a faucet handle for a knob and decorative hinges - and Ann stocked it with books. They personalized it with a bronze heart and dedicated the exchange to a longtime family friend, Inger, who was a librarian in Nora, Sweden, until she died this year.
When they registered their Little Free Library with the national network, they got an official sign and literature about the rules: Take a book, leave a book; and leave a note with your donation - liked or not? Quick or hard read? Means something special to you?
'It felt like we were old hippies when we built this; it's a little off the wall,' said Ann, who with Jerry, a retired Portland Police Bureau officer, has lived at their Gresham home for nearly 42 years.
People in the neighborhood started using the little library quickly, based on supply rotation, the Klingers said. People from outside the neighborhood use it too - some pull up in their cars, exchange books and drive away.
They've gotten a variety of kid and adult books, and magazines such as Vanity Fair and Forbes.
'It's fun to go out every few days and have a look at what all is in there,' Ann said.
They use it, too: 'She's reading one from it right now,' Jerry said.
With a constant and ample supply, Ann said they're considering keeping a box in the garage and just popping out occasionally to mix up the supply. 'Or he'll build an annex,' she said, volunteering Jerry.
Meanwhile, they're looking forward to better weather, when they anticipate the Little Free Library will really take off.
'Once books go in,' Ann said, 'they can go anywhere.'
To find a location of a Little Free Library, or to start your own, visit LittleFreeLibrary.org.