Little Free Libraries Lend With Love



Last year, the public became hip to the nationwide Little Free Library movement, which began also to make headway in Flint. Starting with Chris and Sarah Reed of Flint, and growing to just over a half dozen locations throughout Genesee County in only one year’s time, Genesee County Little Free Libraries gives neighbors and passersby the opportunity to participate in what’s called a “self-serve book exchange.”

Here’s how it works: active participants in the Little Free Library program register their home as a location with the organization. They then set up a box, typically situated at the tail end of their home driveway, which contains a number of books from their personal collection. Anyone can hence indefinitely borrow or even keep any book they like from the small assortment, and generally, the borrower will oblige by donating a book of their own. News has spread quickly of the grassroots literacy effort through social and mainstream media alike, and active participation is showing no sign of abatement; in fact, many have taken it upon themselves to join in the trend apart from the nationwide collective effort, which gives no offense to those who are officially recognized through Little Free Libraries. Those who opt out of the countrywide cooperation simply lose out on being included on the online box locator. Of the now seven Genesee County locations, there lie four in Flint, two in Davison, and one in Clio. Some locations are becoming theme oriented, such as the Lunch Studio’s LFL box in Downtown Flint, which has an Arts & Crafts focus.

Jodi Bufford of Davison opened her LFL late last year. She spoke with My City Magazine about the concept of Little Free Libraries and explained what she liked most about it. She says the small book displays work almost like an unsaid exchange of “recommended books,” and this is what she finds so appealing. Patrons can drop off what they would like others to read, and when they pick something up, they are in some ways inheriting the suggested book of another. When this exchange happens, it allows books to “go right back into circulation in the neighborhood” as Bufford sees it, creating an endless cycle of community connection through reading.

Bufford also shared some of the ways in which LFL, and especially her location, is trying to engage in more than just an anonymous community book exchange. She most recently coordinated a local author meet-and-greet in September. Invited guest authors included Flint natives Paul and Audriana Counelis and Connor Coyne. Bufford saw the meet-and-greet as a way to “try and keep local authors involved in the community.” She has also been inspired by the local historical society to tell the story of her neighborhood as an LFL event. Bufford’s home is situated approximate to the former Genesee County Fairground race tracks, so she plans to present a display of archival photos to tell the story of the neighborhood’s development over the years. Other future projects include possible independently coordinated field trips for children.

It can be argued that Flint is a microcosm of sorts. The town shares demographic similarities to other major cities throughout the Midwest, just on a smaller scale. If one pays close attention, he will notice that several projects underway in the revival of Flint are microcosmic; that is, they are smaller versions of larger events both state and nationwide. Everything from recent creative mini fundraising efforts to the grandiosity of Back to the Bricks has its conceptual origins in cities like Detroit and Chicago, just to name a few. This is not to take anything away from what is being done in Flint, but rather, to encourage more things like these. Genesee County Little Free Libraries might be a small part of a larger whole, but it is doing big things, and it is doing them in Flint. Now is a great time to be a part of any one of these grassroots projects, and LFL is a great place to start.



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