Walking down West Sierra Avenue in Cotati, passersby might have noticed the new free library box set up in front of the Cotati Rohnert Park Co-Op Nursery School that was installed on Oct. 18. The brainchild of the school’s teacher and director, Sherry Clem, the library has already had several patrons and has shown to be a way to bring community together.
“Last year I was in Washington and I saw one [a free library box] as we were walking through a neighborhood,” explains Clem. “I thought it was a really cool thing so I looked it up and they are starting to pop up everywhere. Being a preschool teacher and an avid reader I felt that I wanted to have something outside of our school so people could come from not only our school, but also the community since we have so many people walking by, to be able to access the books there.”
As a teacher Clem receives a lot of free books, and while she has always offered these up to her students and their families, the box was a way to extend her passion for books and reading to the greater community. She is the first in Cotati to register her library at www.littlefreelibrary.org where people can search a map to find free libraries near them. One can find the address, a picture of the box, and the story behind it for each registered library. So far there are five listed on the site in Rohnert Park, at 272 Adele Avenue; 7320 Rasmussen Way; 1130 Civic Center Drive; 6191 San Mateo Court; and one on Valley House Drive near Credo High School.
An added benefit of the free libraries is that patrons can keep the books. There are no late fees, no returns necessary, and no need to leave a book unless desired.
“You can go to the library, you can buy books online, you can buy books anywhere and you would have to pay for them,” says Clem. “But this is an opportunity for you to get free books and share books in one area. On the site it says ‘take a book, leave a book,’ but I let parents know here that they can just take a book. They don’t have to leave a book and they don’t have to bring it back. It’s theirs to keep.”
The library box, which was made almost entirely from recycled materials from the school, has taken off just in its first week and Clem has already refilled it. To that end, she welcomes any book donations and residents are welcome to bring them directly to the school.
An unexpected benefit of establishing the free library has been the connection Clem has made in the neighborhood and seeing how something like this brings people together, fostering the sense of kindness and community.
“That’s been really great,” says Clem. “We’ll be outside and you’ll see people come by and they’ll be looking at it and then they’ll stop and ask you questions. It’s a great way for you to just extend yourself out into your neighborhood and your community, which I think we should do more often anyway.”