Howe’s Little Free Libraries Draw Positive Feedback

By Jessica Zischke, The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 9/30/14 3:00am

Those of you who weren’t on campus in the summer may have noticed an extra dose of cute in Hanover – the Howe Library installed two Little Free Libraries over 14X. These structures invite passersby to “Take a book, leave a book,” offering a small break from a hectic day. The first Little Free Library was unveiled in front of Hanover’s Town Hall on Aug, 11 and the second, between the Hanover Inn and the Hop, was installed earlier this month.

Since 2009, the Little Free Library movement has spread worldwide, spearheaded by an organization of the same name. According to the Little Free Library website, these free book exchanges aim to “promote literacy and the love of reading” and to “build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” As of Jan. 15, 15,000 Little Free Libraries were registered with the organization across at least 56 countries.

The quaint structures in Hanover have been in the works for over a year, when Howe Library staff and trustees decided it would be a worthwhile project. Howe Library director Mary White said she was drawn to the idea by the opportunity for outreach it provided the library.

“A lot of people are very busy and don’t have time to come to us,” White said. “Or sometimes they’re a new student at Dartmouth or new to the area and they might not know about the Howe Library. This was one way for us to reach them without them having to find us.”

White worked with Chuck Gibson of Chuck Gibson Design to create the design for the little libraries and with Scott Thetford of Old School Designs to construct the physical structures.

The final design mimicked the architecture of the Howe Library itself, as White had requested. Gibson noted that this style departed from the typical structure he had seen in other Little Free Libraries, which resembled dollhouses and consisted of painted wood. Instead, Gibson envisioned a structure made entirely of metal with a quilted appearance through its use of stainless steel, copper and brass.

“I feel good that I’ve been able to push the frontiers forward a little bit,” Gibson said. “As far as I know, I think the all-metal structure that I designed here is something new.”

These mini libraries have caught the eye of students and community members since their installment, including James Drain ’17. Drain has perused the Little Free Library three times and although he has yet to take a book, he plans to add his own to the collection.

“I’m planning to put in this book I read about willpower recently,” Drain said. "Someone will take those books and read it, which is nice. But it’s small; it’s not very large-scale.”

White and the rest of the Howe staff work hard to make sure that the Little Free Libraries are stocked throughout the week and keep an eye out for worn books.

“The thing that was very important to me, and this was how some of the Little Free Libraries die, is that they don’t put in interesting books,” White said. “We have books for children, teens and adults, fiction and nonfiction.”

Jessica Zischke, The Dartmouth Senior Staff