Drive past Barbara Paredes’ home in southwest Gainesville and you might find yourself doing a double-take.
You might see children casually strolling onto her lawn with their bikes in tow, or you might even see a car pull up and appear to take a book out of her mailbox. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll see that this “mailbox” isn’t really a mailbox at all, but a charming blue miniature house adorned with the words ‘Little Free Library’ at the top. Peek inside the tiny home-shaped container and you’ll find a mini-library crammed with literature representing nearly every genre; Dr. Seuss storybooks nestled next to James Patterson novels.
The real cause for a double-take? All these books are up for grabs; anyone can take a book from this library. For free.
Created to promote community literacy and a love of reading through free book exchanges, the Little Free Library movement was started in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin. Over the past six years, the organization has expanded to six continents and 56 countries, with 15,000 registered libraries and 4.5 million books exchanged in 2014 alone.
“I hope my library will be a landmark to help those who visit to discover reading and a love for being transported to wherever a book may take you,” Paredes said.
First hearing about the Little Free Library movement from a small segment on the Disney Channel, Paredes’ interest was immediately piqued. After doing some research, Paredes decided that building a little library was something that would not only benefit her own neighborhood, but the entire greater Gainesville community.
Paredes credits the community as a major source of support throughout the process, particularly in helping to finance the project. Within a week of launching a campaign on popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe to raise the necessary funds for her library, generous donors had offered all the money she needed.
Since opening her little library in October of this year, Paredes says the response she’s received from neighbors and passersby has been “nothing short of phenomenal.” The real challenge, says Paredes, has been keeping the library stocked, since it operates solely from donations and her personal contributions.
“We’ve had people from all over Gainesville come by,” Paredes said. “Everyone tells me how cool they think it is, my neighbors stop by all the time to switch books.”
Visit Paredes’ Little Free Library at 1939 SW 73rd Terrace Gainesville, Florida, to drop off any book donations or to take a book for yourself. You can also follow the The Floo of Gainesville Charter #30534 community page on Facebook for updates.