You never know where you might find a great book. In fact, your next read may be closer than you think. Take a stroll through the streets of our neighborhood and find one of the three Little Free Libraries at either 285 Clarissa Street, 79 Santiago Street, or in the Ralph Avery Mall.
From humble beginnings with one library, the Little Free Library nonprofit organization has grown to 150,000+ libraries in more than 100 countries around the world. The organization believes that “all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege.” Stewards are individuals who further LFL’s vision, responsible for installing their library and for basic maintenance and we are very lucky to have three wonderful stewards in our neighborhood.
Ralph Avery Mall Little Free Library
Lew Jones along with his wife Janet, are the stewards for the LFL in the Ralph Avery Mall, which was installed three years ago. Once a librarian for eleven years, Lew has since retired, but has not retired his love of reading. Lew and his wife have lived in the neighborhood since 2011 and are very active in Corn Hill. Lew has been on the board of CHNA and Cornhill Commons for many years. Janet is on the committee for Corn Hill Connection, a committee that welcomes new neighbors and helps our neighbors in need.
Their LFL receives a lot of foot traffic being in the Ralph Avery Mall and late one evening, Janet looked out their window to see someone reading a book on a bench under a street light which is the perfect vision of what LFLs do: make you slow down and discover something new. During the pandemic, they also received a handwritten thank you note in their library from an unnamed neighbor, thanking everyone for contributing reading material during that time.
Little Free Library at 79 Santiago Street
The stewards for the LFL at 79 Santiago Street are Meredith Smith and her husband Adam. You may see them walking through the neighborhood, Adam often carrying a handful of litter that he has picked up along their route “as he does his part to keep the streets of our neighborhood beautiful for residents and visitors alike.” Their library was built by Meredith’s father for her birthday and was originally installed outside their home in Canandaigua in 2014. When they moved to Corn Hill, the library came too and was installed in 2016. Meredith, after encountering Little Free Libraries on her travels as well as being an avid reader, was not only charmed by the concept but was moved by the organization’s mission.
Their LFL also houses a geocache, added in 2019 to help attract additional foot traffic, joining 2,454 other geocaches in the Rochester area. Geocaching is touted as the “world’s largest treasure hunt.” Since its addition, ”almost 100 geocachers from near and far have visited the Corn Hill neighborhood to find the geocache hidden in our library.”
Meredith also deserves a big commendation for bringing a Little Free Library to the Abundance Food Co-Op in the South Wedge after submitting an LFL Impact Library Program application. This program provides a free library full of books to the recipient. According to their website, “95% of Impact Library recipients agree that their granted little library is providing access to books to people who have little-to-no access to books elsewhere.”
Little Free Library at 285 Clarissa Street
The Little Free Library at 285 Clarissa Street has a very special steward: City Councilmember Mary Lupien, who was elected to City Council in January 2020. Councilmember Lupien “is passionate about fighting poverty, institutional racism, housing rights, and improving the quality of life for all Rochesterians.”
Councilmember Lupien was a part of the organization Lots of Food, who worked with the Flying Squirrel Community Center to put in an edible food forest garden and an LFL in late 2013. At the time of installing the LFL, she was “working to improve local food resiliency and access as a way to fight climate change.” The library has a music theme due to being located near the former site of the Pythodd Room (1942-1973) at the corner of Clarissa and Troup Streets. The Pythodd Room was on the “Chitlin’ Circuit – a system and network where Black musicians could work around Jim Crow Era practices of discrimination” according to ClarissaUprooted.org.
Aside from their very important purpose, the fun in Little Free Libraries is in the discovery. I have found new releases that were on my “to be read” list, which inspired me to buy an extra copy of books I am excited about: one for me and one for an LFL. Next time you are walking around, be sure to stop by one of our three neighborhood Little Free Libraries and consider donating a book. You could be donating the perfect book for someone to discover.
Find the full map of Little Free Libraries and more information about the organization at: littlefreelibrary.org.