Coming soon to a corner near you: Little Free Libraries

There are very few projects that I get involved with that are as adorable as Nashua’s Little Free Libraries. That’s why I’m so excited about what’s coming to our community this September. What exactly is a “Little Free Library?” Well, if you haven’t seen them around town, you can find one in front of United Way on Broad Street, the Adult Learning Center, Good Shepherd Church, Lamprey Health Care, Labine Park, the Greater Nashua Dental Connection and on the Rail Trail. In essence, a Little Free Library is a place where books can be found that are shared. You can take a book to read, and you can leave a book if you desire. There are books for kids as well as for adults.

The purpose of the LFL is to encourage the building of community through reading. Oftentimes access to books is challenging. If a person doesn’t have the money to purchase books and lives at a distance from the public library, then it can be a real challenge. People like this are said to live in “book desserts.” So, when we choose the locations of our LFLs, it is with an eye to places that aren’t close to the library or other book sources and are typically mixed income and high density. That way, they get lots of use. Last year, we were testing it out, and the result has been very good. Well over a thousand books have come and gone through our LFLs, and the feedback has been great.

Therefore, when BAE Systems approached us about doing a repeat of the project in 2018, we had to jump on the opportunity. After several discussions, including a demography presentation by one of our middle schools, as well as a poll on Facebook, we have decided on eight brand-new locations, which will bring us to a total of 15 LFLs in our community. The new locations will be: Pheasant Lane Mall by Dick’s Sporting Goods; behind Nashua City Hall; in front of Revive Recovery on Main Street; Lajoie Field near the Boys & Girls Club; Roby Park; Atherton Park; Lincoln Park near the entrance to Mine Falls; and Thornton Park back behind the Nashua Community College. Each of these locations, in addition to the current ones, will be registered online with LittleFreeLibrary.org and will be installed and operated without any city resources or taxpayer dollars for the benefit of our community.

The way the system works is through a partnership to install and maintain the Little Free Libraries in our community that we built last year. The partnership has been fantastic, and includes volunteers from BAE Systems, who install the libraries; the Nashua Public Library; which supplies the books; P&L Landscaping, which digs the holes where the libraries get installed; Reeds Ferry, which supplies much materials like cement, a group of voluntary “Library Stewards” from the community who maintain the libraries and makes sure they are well stocked; and United Way, which coordinates the project. Additionally, the Nashua Public Library, BAE Systems and United Way share the costs of the project.

How can you help? If you find this project as compelling as we do, there are a few ways you can support it. One way is to become a “LFL Steward.” These volunteers adopt a LFL and check on it periodically. They make sure it is stocked, and restock it with books from the Nashua Public Library. For the most part, these books are purchased with support of the nonprofit Friends of the Nashua Public Library, to whom we are very grateful. The stewards also do light maintenance on their LFL’s throughout the year and report on any bigger problems that might occur. The easiest way to become a steward is to join our Facebook group “The Little Free Library Stewards of Nashua.” We currently need about 20 stewards to volunteer to support the program in its expansion.

Another way you can help is with a donation of books. If you have books that would be appropriate to donate for our LFLs, you can bring them to the Nashua Public Library and let them know that they are for the Little Free Libraries. We always need children’s books as well as books for adolescents, which seem to run in short supply. Another way you can help is to make a financial donation to the program, which we will set aside for maintenance and upkeep as well as for further program expansion. That can be done via check to United Way. Lastly, if you happen to be going by one of our Little Free Libraries, take a cute selfie and post it on Facebook for all to see. Be sure to tag United Way of Greater Nashua and the Nashua Public Library in your post. That’s a great way to simply promote the Little Free Libraries.

All in all, we are simply very excited and gratified to have such a great program and wonderful partnerships to make our Little Free Libraries a success. Just one more example of what we mean when we say that Great Things Happen When We Live United.

Mike Apfelberg is president of United Way of Greater Nashua.