Pasadena has a history of making sure there is a library no more than one mile from each residence. But now the city has taken proximity to literacy a step further.
Overseen by District 3 Councilmember John Kennedy, the program known as the “Little Free Library” is undergoing tremendous growth. 2929
It started in the late 1990s as a simple way to get more books in the hands of more people, said Susana Porras, Kennedy’s district liaison.
“It’s basically a little box,” said Porras, who has a Little Free Library in front of her house on Sunset Avenue, near the corner of Orange Grove Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue. “You can design it any which way you want.
“You fill it up with books. People take them and it’s based on the honor system. Hopefully, when they take one, they leave one.”
Porras said that when she put the box out in 2012, she wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. The results, she said, have surpassed her greatest expectations. People from as far away as San Francisco have visited her box and taken a book.
“It started out as an experiment,” Porras said. “We didn’t know what would happen with the Little Free Library. We thought it might get vandalized. We thought nobody would take books. It turned out to be great.”
Currently, there are approximately 20 Little Free Libraries in operation with nine more planned for production, Porras said.
Her box has a sponsor, Crown City Estate Sales. That helps keep the library fully stocked.
“We do everything we can to keep it full, but we’re surrounded by three different schools,” she said. “We’ve put other things in there, like school supplies, book markers, and people will take them.”
Other sponsors have included the Pasadena Police Department and Throop Lumber, which has helped build the libraries using damaged materials the company cannot sell.
“The whole point is you’re supposed to try and make them out of recycled material,” Porras said. “They don’t want you to use new materials. They’re supposed to be sustainable.”
In addition, Porras said the Little Free Library is handicap-accessible. The shelf is filled with kids’ books and the top with books for adults.
“People love it,” she said. “They absolutely love the idea of having the Little Free Library in front of their yard. And the demand is so big, it’s just amazing. I have people dropping off bags of books on my porch.”
Kennedy said while having a library within a mile of your house is still a good thing, it might be too far for a small child. The Little Free Library can put books into the hands of youngsters right in their neighborhoods.
“One of the ways we are cutting down the distance for little children is with the Little Free Libraries,” said Kennedy, whose district covers central and northwest Pasadena. “They either can keep the book forever, return the book or provide additional books.”
Kennedy said he believes love of reading and learning is necessary to have a productive society.
“If we can reach the child early enough and have them able to read, we will put them on a track of lifetime learning,” he said. “That learning will ensure that they are productive citizens, productive
students, productive parents and will contribute to society.
“The book opens up new vistas of understanding of the world that the child would not normally have. The book transports the little child to positive environments, new ways of learning, new experiences.”
What really struck Porras about her Little Free Library — nobody has ever tried to vandalize it.
“I thought people were going to draw on there,” she said. “And the doors are
PlexiGlass. They’re very easy to scratch. We did have our little American flag stolen. That’s happened twice, but that’s the worst that’s happened.”