A Little Free Library, built by Buzz Smith, stands outside his and wife Jeannette’s summer home in Chester to help encourage neighborhood kids to read. From left: Ashlee Albonico, 11; Brooke Sacuskie, 9; Michaela Sacuskie, 12; Isabella Smith, 10; Buzz Smith; Alessandra Smith, 8; Jeannette Smith; Rocklin Albonico, 8; Braden Ingwerson, 9; and Mason Cox, 4. Photo by Stacy Fisher

Little free libraries

Tempe, Arizona, residents Isabella Smith, 10, and her mother Rebecca de la Torre, along with dad Lynn and little sister Alessandra Smith are visiting during the summer months with Isabella’s grandparents Buzz and Jeannette Smith in Chester.

While living in Tempe, Isabella said that she was “fascinated” by the ‘Little Free Library’ sites that were stationed around outside her neighborhood, “and I wanted one in my neighborhood too. … I knew my grandpa was a good builder, so I asked him to build a Little Free Library for us as well.”

Buzz, who has lived in Chester for 40 years with his lovely wife Jeannette, are both Chester residents six months of the year when they’re not living in Arizona.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit international effort that inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges in 85 countries boasting over 75,000 little community libraries worldwide.

Isabella’s idea was to combine adult books with kids’ books, by having her grandfather build a small, stationary two-story construction shaped somewhat like a miniature house, with the top story for adult books and books for children located in the lower story that could be displayed on the front lawn of her parents’ Tempe home.

Once the Little Free Library was completed, some 80 households were invited from their subdivision to participate in an “opening ceremony.”

Buzz recently built a second Little Free Library for the kids on the block to enjoy, located in the front yard of their Chester home at 634 Willhoite Road. Neighbors donated several children’s books to stock the outdoor library.

Isabella said the way it works is that kids come to the Little Free Library, often with a parent or guardian, and exchange one book they already have for another. It’s that simple.

“People are very good about replacing books before they take books, so we always have a nicely filled library with a lot of subjects to choose from,” said de la Torre.

The concept behind Little Free Library is that it remains stationary in a single location; usually outside on the front yard of the home, or it could be located in the front of schools or in playgrounds for example, for a minimum of five years, “as long as there is a steward to maintain it,” she remarked.

“Anybody can build a Little Free Library once they are registered and receive a placard,” de la Torre noted, adding that Buzz, who also happens to be the founder of the Chester Classic Fourth of July Fun Run & Walk, has been assigned placard number 75,307 from the organization.

Buzz said his motivation behind building a Little Free Library for the community is to plant a seed, “to encourage kids to read” by providing more reading opportunities for them.

“One of the things research has shown,” de la Torre continued, “is that children who have access to books are three years ahead academically than children who do not have access to books.”

People can go online to find the locations of the Little Free Libraries on the organization’s official website: littlefreelibrary.org, and to find information on setting up your own Little Free Library.

Currently, only the Smiths have a registered Little Free Library located in Chester that they know of.

The website also offers a number of photos of imaginatively made Little Free Libraries created around the world made from an incredible assortment of materials. Some inexpensive constructions are available that can be bought online, or build your own from scratch.

Buzz said youngsters in the wider neighborhood could start coming by anytime and help themselves to books at their leisure.