Little Free Library gains local foothold
Box located at Sitting Room in Penngrove
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By Natalie Gray  June 28, 2013 12:00 am

Books were left outside the Sitting Room this week without a second thought. Don’t worry, the books were perfectly safe – cozy even. They sat tucked away inside a wooden box that at first glance could be one of the mailboxes it sits beside. 

This is the Little Free Library, and it is unlike anything else in Cotati or Rohnert Park. It stands on a post about four feet high with a wooden roof and frame, a clear glass face and looking a little like something from a fairy tale as it sits surrounded by dusty trees. The small door on the front of the box is never locked, and the inside of this tiny library always smells warmly of wood and is stuffed full of books. 

Every book is free to take, no library card or permission needed. Or, the library is always open to receive a book. That is the basis of the Little Free Library, genius in its simplicity: Take a book, leave a book. Of course, you are always welcome to do both. 

“(It’s) to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations,” reads the Little Free Library mission statement on its webpage. Besides the Little Free Library is a bulletin board, dotted with business cards, local events and, of course, Sitting Room news. There is a short, wooden bridge leading to the library and the bulletin board, built by a Sitting Room neighbor. Built to help form a sense of community, to say the Sitting Room has gone above and beyond may be a bit of an understatement.

The Little Free Library is a quickly growing phenomenon spreading not only across the country, but creeping its way along the world as well. According to a brief history pinned to the bulletin board, the Little Library trend first began in Madison, Wis., where a wooden box was posted outside a house with a sign reading, “Bring a book/take a book.” 

Little Free Libraries have been springing up everywhere since then, from everywhere between the American east and west coasts. The Little Free Library official website has even begun a “Books for Africa” program to raise money to donate a goal of 2,000 Little Free Libraries to Africa. 

According to the Little Library webpage, the official goal is to have 2,510 libraries; that is, to have more libraries than Andrew Carnegie. 

“It encourages a sense of community,” said Sitting Room co-founder J. J. Wilson of the Little Free Library. “The people who read together, live well together. It celebrates healthier neighborhoods.”

The Sitting Room’s Little Free Library came last summer. The library was purchased and given to the Sitting Room by co-founder Karen Petersen with Wilson acting as steward. The Little Library sits curbside, nestled comfortably between a collection of mailboxes and a few trees, giving it easy access to passers-by. 

“I love watching kids stand on their tip-toes to get the books,” said Wilson. “They get it; they didn’t need to be introduced to the idea.”

According to Wilson, there is only one rule to the Little Library: Give books you love and want to share with your community. The Little Free Library is not a place to simply drop off a collection of books you are trying to get rid of; it is a place of sharing. The basic idea of the Little Free Library is to share with your neighbors your love of reading…to spread the story that touched your heart. The Sitting Room even has stickers from the Little Free Library website you can put inside the cover fold of your book that allows you to write why you donated your book.

Though the Little Library sits before the Sitting Room, the two act as totally separated libraries. Where the Little Free Library acts as a warm, brief-stop into the world of literature and allows for anonymous, community-building, the Sitting Room offers a home and sanctuary to literary-lovers of almost every breed. 

The Sitting Room was founded more than 30 years ago with the goal of becoming a perfect library; it offers a place for members to of course read, but also openly converse, act and create together, a kitchen, a wide back-yard, a letter-making desk and a writing room. Every wall is covered in books, with sections like “Local Artists,” “Non-Fiction,” “Poetry,” and “Feminist Theory.” The Sitting Room is a house turned into a community library that feels every bit like a home you would expect a place with a sitting chair in every room, a table full of fresh fruit, a book on every surface and a Little Free Library in its front yard to feel like. 

Visit the Little Free Library to bring or take a book at the Sitting Room’s location at 2025 Curtis Dr. in Penngrove. To learn more about the Little Free Library, you can visit their website at www.littlefreelibrary.org and to learn more of the Sitting Room and schedule a tour you can visit www.sittingroom.org.  

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