Earlier this year, a little pink box of books appeared in front of the Good Shepard Episcopal Church in North Parkersburg. This little box is the first official Little Free Library to pop up in the Mid-Ohio Valley, constructed by and for members of the community. Little Free Libraries (LFL) are “take a book, return a book” gathering places where neighbors share their favorites stories and novels with each other. In its most basic form, it’s a box full of books where anyone may stop and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another to share.

The idea began with Todd Bol in Wisconsin when he built a model one-room school house as a tribute to his mother, who loved to read. Rick Brooks, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison saw Todd’s DIY project while they were discussing social enterprise. Inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s dream of free public libraries, the achievements of Miss Lutie Stearns, and other grassroots efforts, the two joined together to form the Little Free Library project in 2010. Since its inception, there are now over 15,000 LFLs, with thousands more being built.

LFLThis pink LFL may be the first of it’s kind in the Mid-Ohio Valley, but there are many more in the works. The Good Shepard Episcopal Church recently installed a community garden on its property, along with the “Garden Shed” — a structure modeled after the LFL, containing books on gardening, tools, and seeds. The community has plans to install several more LFLs around the neighborhood, each with its own unique sense of character. The Belpre Youth Chamber of Commerce also just dedicated their own Little Free Library at the Belpre Senior Center at the end of May.

The beauty of the Little Free Library is that anyone can build one — their website even offers how-to instructions for inspired builders. Every builder seems to give their LFL its own personality, however — some are built to look like the scale versions of the houses they sit in front of, others more whimsically resemble animals or fictional characters. A wonderful way to brighten up a neighborhood, these boxes of books are encouraging communities to come together and share in the joys of reading.

Here are just a few examples of how this project has been interpreted: