Joggers and dog-walkers who make their rounds on Cabrillo Circle in Lodi have noticed something strange on their neighbor’s lawn. It’s a large box secured to a sturdy post, and it looks like it may be a place for cats to curl up, or a shelf to hold the morning newspaper.
Once those passersby get closer, they learn it’s actually a tiny library — a Little Free Library, to be precise.
“It’s gained popularity,” said Michelle Mazzera-Mayo, who lives on Cabrillo Circle with her husband and two daughters. “I’ve had people from out of state stop and ask me about it. Some want to put it in their own yards.”
She got the idea from her mother, who saw a Little Free Library on a TV program last year. Mazzera-Mayo checked out the website and learned anyone can start one of their own.
The project began in Wisconsin in 2009 when Todd Bol built a box shaped like a schoolhouse to hold books for his neighborhood. It was to honor his mother, a teacher and lover of books.
The neighborhood loved the idea, and it spread.
The original goal was to create more libraries than the number of public libraries supported by Andrew Carnegie. Today, Little Free Libraries number nearly 6,000 in 40 countries.
Library stewards, as the participants are called, can order a library box from Bol’s website, or build one of their own. Little Free Library does request that boxes are registered so others can locate each site.
Each library runs on the honor system. Anyone can take a book, but they are asked to leave a book in its place if they can.
Mazzera-Mayo went online and noticed there were very few boxes in the Central Valley. The closest Little Free Library to Lodi was at the Family Resource and Referral Center in Stockton.
Mazzera-Mayo decided it was time to change that. She downloaded a design, got supplies donated by Horn Construction, and had her friend Steve Stewart build the box.
Mazzera-Mayo installed the library last October, and has added to the garden tableau piece by piece. Now the post is surrounded by perennial blooms planted in dark bark. A chalkboard graces either side of the library box, and a corkboard covers the back to serve as a neighborhood bulletin board. There’s even a wooden bench for patrons to relax and flip through the offerings before selecting one.
Mazzera-Mayo’s two daughters love having a library on the lawn, and eagerly check for new books each day.
“At first people thought it was completely weird, like an overgrown birdhouse. But then they saw the books,” said Taya Mayo, 9, swinging the library’s window door open wide.
The Lodi mom says her daughters love to read, and she wants to see that passion spread to others.
“I’m not here to teach anybody to read,” she said. “I just want to encourage the fun of reading.”
She’s not too worried about privacy or vandalism.
“I set it up away from the front door intentionally, so no one is peering through the windows when they grab a book,” she said. “And why would you vandalize it? The books are free. If you take one, read it.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.