Little Free Library Dedication at Farmstead

I can’t image summer break as a kid without reading. There’s those rainy days on the screened-in porch, feeling the breeze and snuggling up on the sofa with a good novel. There’s all the hours of “read-aloud” we had as a family, with Mom rendering the pages into radio-drama life while Kara and I worked on projects. Books were everywhere in the house, on the staircase, in bags by the piano, in the car, on the nightstand. The library staff knew us by name.
But as the streams of summer’s vacationing children visit the farm, I’ve noticed very few books. There’s lots of electronic gadgets to keep the little eyes and fingers busy. But books? Where did they go? Where are all those delicious, eye-candy illustrations on those great big pages, or all that fun of walking in the shoes of another character and seeing what life looks like for them?
I learned about the idea of the “Little Free Library” a few years ago, where anyone can build a fun or quirky or colorful or utilitarian outdoor book hutch and stock it with great reads of all genres. Then, anybody who wants to can take a book to lend or keep, later bringing them back or adding new books to the shelf. I found this idea especially exciting, considering how many of the cabins tucked back in the lakes out here can be a real jaunt from an official library. With the Little Free Library concept, there’s no need for a card, no need to renew your book after two weeks—no strings attached to anything. If you like a book that you see, have it!
So I wanted to add this “Say yes to reading” option to the Farmstead experience, but I didn’t have a suitable structure about to repurpose. I also had run out of any time to make something, with spring coming on followed by the hectic business of summertime. So I reached out to some fellow ally artists who have a penchant for woodworking and painting to collaborate on the project. Retired teachers from the Chicago area, Barb and John Figlewicz have a cabin on Moose Lake, and Barb is one of the artists featured at Farmstead Creamery.
Upon describing the project, they were excited to be on board. We looked at pictures online, discussed ideas, and brainstormed revisions after they visited some other Little Free Libraries in their Illinois neighborhood. But I was not expecting the level of intense craftsmanship and cuteness factor when they pulled up into our parking lot with the finished project in the back of their van.
Designed with a Gambrel barn roof, topped with real shingles and a carved and painted wooden pig (including curly tail!), the barn-like library also had little mock windows, a plexiglass door, and antique-style hinges and latch. Marty and Gil Zych (more lake-home friends and enthusiasts for this project) had already donated books to the cause, and we had a box ready to go from our own collection. Steve drove in the spike to hold the 4×4 post, while Mom engineered the levelling, and the Little Free Library was ready.
That Thursday, to kick off the Spoken Word evening, we held a dedication ceremony for the Little Free Library, complete with a ribbon cutting with its makers. I had also composed a poem, which I read for the occasion:

Little Book of Summer’s Reading
Little book of summer’s reading
Built the tiered spires of Camelot
Jousting knights and tales bold
Song of troubadours linger
Amidst ladies’ golden tresses.

Little book of summer’s reading
Found my way through Narnia
By the lamppost hushed by snowfall
Mr. Tumnus with his cloven feet
Stands there waiting with umbrella.

Little book of summer’s reading
Laughed so hard at Shakespeare’s antics
Switching genders, mixed-up siblings
Poking fun at human foibles
While spilling timeless truth.

Little book of summer’s reading
Solved the mysteries with Sherlock
Tracking footsteps in the shadows
‘Til every Doyle was read
And dear Watson set down the pen.

Little book of summer’s reading
Begged and begged for one more chapter
While Mom’s eyelids grew heavy
Evening’s curfew lifted fully
When read-aloud nights were afoot.

Little book of summer’s reading
Met so many searchers, dreamers
Wondered about what could be if…
Followed winding paths through hardship
Ventured into lives unlike my own.

Little book of summer’s reading
What if you could see me now
Now as story weaver in my own right
Smith of words
Remembering your treasure.

Looking for a good book to pick up (for you, the kids, or the grandkids) this summer or have books you’d like for others to enjoy? Stop by and see this beautiful mini book barn for yourself! The paperwork is sent in for an official Little Free Library charter number, so the plaque should be arriving soon. Let’s all make time this summer for a good book. See you down on the farm sometime.