by Kathy Magnuson

"Oh my gosh. We need to have that in my neighborhood. This is the neatest idea in probably forever." Mary Ellen Halvorson jumped at the opportunity.

Dot Landis said "Yes" as a way to honor the memory of her husband who was a voracious reader.

"I totally want one of those" Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner said. She got hers as a surprise birthday present from her husband and kids.

What they all did was become stewards of Little Free Libraries.

Todd Bol and Rick Brooks of Wisconsin developed their idea of the free book exchanges with a motto of "Take a Book, Return a Book." They encourage individuals or organizations to be the steward of a free lending library by hosting a small, weather-resistant box in their yard. An individual can design and build her own little library or purchase plans or finished libraries through the Little Free Library website. With libraries in all sizes and shapes, the steward initially stocks it with books. Visitors can both borrow and leave books for others to use. Bol reports that 80 percent of library stewards are women.

"I love books. I love reading," Griffin-Wiesner said, explaining her motivation. "We sometimes sell our books. Sometimes give them away. I cherish them and hate not to do something wonderful with them. It's a community-builder. To me it's another piece of the puzzle of making this a great place for my kids to grow up."

Donated books that have passed through the Griffin-Wiesner Little Free Library include "Cheap, The High Cost of Discount Culture," "The Hobbitt," "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent," a Garrison Keillor book and "The Complete Guide to Home Brewing."

Landis did not realize Little Free Library would be installed as soon as it was. She intended to post a laminated sheet that explains how the library works, but "before I could even get up the directions, books started to appear at the library. People have really participated. It has been great ... The day after I distributed a flier I got this really nice note from somebody down the block-[someone] I don't really know-thanking me for it."

"It just sparks a lot of excitement for me-being connected with each other as a community," Halvorson said. "It just does something for me and makes me want to be more connected with other people. It is one of those serendipitious things. I felt like my heart was singing. It's an opportunity for people to connect and feel a part of something."

"It's not mine. It is the community's." Halvorson summed up.

To see photos, plans and a map of Little Free Libraries visit

Visit these three libraries at:
5001 18th Ave. S., Minneapolis

3141 Pennsylvania Ave. S., St. Louis Park

2125 Kelly Dr., Golden Valley

Where do you see women connecting and making 
change in your world?
Send me your story, magnuson@womens