Tag Archives: Little Free Libraries

Summertime means time to read!

One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by ~~Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle

The recent post report notwithstanding, the F. Scott Fitzgerald international conference does not a summer make. When the dust has settled bibliophiles will continue book binge and reluctant readers won’t be able to resist the abundance of literary lures. What follows are hints of the possibilities.  Whether you’re a reader, a good listener, a browser or just choose to hang out with word lovers, you’ll want to keep your eyes and mind open to the possibilities!  The list here is sadly metro-centric and arbitrary – the idea is to suggest sources and inspire creative searches for bookish gatherings that may pop up in unexpected places.

Public libraries and local Friends of the Library are planning close-to-home programs for all ages.  The MELSA calendar is humungous and detailed, loaded with Bookawocky events for kids,  book discussions, music, house history, art, gardening, something for everyone.  Think reading options, varieties of content and the choice of format that fits the seeker’s fancy and device.

More than ever libraries have no monopoly on reading resources and events – the great good news is that book sales are rising, book groups, literary events of every fashion are everywhere – in coffee shops, places of worship, indie bookstores, parks, book festivals  and more.

Following are some bookish possibilities that suggest you’ll find books and reading – local writers reading their books, book art, book discussions, poets, historians, even Little Free Libraries — in unexpected places!  Troll the neighborhood to learn who’s reading or listening to what… consider your nosiness as a high-brow form of voyeurism.

A few events that might activate your literary inclinations:

June 16, 7-8:00 PM Victoria Houston (http://www.victoriahouston.com) The author will discuss her new book Dead Spider at Once Upon a Crime Bookstore, 604 W 26th Street, , Minneapolis. Doors open at 6:30.

June 17, 2 PM.  History Comes Alive: Emily O. Goodridge Grey.  Emily O. Goodridge Grey was an African American social activist, pioneer and abolitionist in Minnesota during the 19th century.  Hosmer Library. 347 E 36th St, Minneapolis  This is just one in a robust series of History Comes Alive programs, stories of African American men and women shaped not just Minnesota, but the entire nation. The series is developed by Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center.(https://www.facebook.com/MAAMCC/

June 17, 10 AM.  Joel Katz, author of From Footpaths to Freeways, Minneapolis Central Library.  Katzwill discuss the history of highway development in Hennepin County and around the state.  His talk will trace Minnesota’s road and street systems, how they developed in pre-statehood times in the 1840’s to today.  Katz will also talk about classifications, construction, maintenance, traffic control, safety congestion, bridges and the interstate system.  Sponsored by Friends of Minneapolis Central Library.

June 17, 3 PM. David Sedaris and Ariel Levy, Common Good Books.  The authors will read and sign their new books:  Sedaris’ Theft by Finding and Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply. http://www.commongoodbooks.com/event/common-good-books-hosts-david-sedaris-ariel-lev

June 21. All day. Book it to the parks!  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of MPR the Minneapolis Foundation is donating 50 Little Free Libraries to Minneapolis Parks.  Local writers will be reading from their children’s books at city parks throughout the day.  For a full list of parks and readings check here: https://www.minneapolisfoundation.org/bookit/

June 25, Open Mic Night at Coffee House Northeast, 2852 Johnson in Northeast Minneapolis– 5:45-8:30 PM.  This is one of countless  summertime open mic possibilities –  For a full list of Open Mic events check here: http://openmikes.org/calendar/MN

June 16 7 PM.  Heid E. Erdrich Eat My Words, 1228 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis. Learn more about Heid Erdrich here:https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/heid-e-erdrich 

June 17, 2 PM David Housewright, What the Dead Leave Behind.(https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rosemary-simpson/what-dead-leave-behind/) Valley Bookseller, Stillwater. 

June 22, 7 PM. East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, St. Paul. Norah Murphy reads from her book White Birch, Red Hawthorn: A MemoirThe story of the author’s ancestors’ maple grove, home of Dakota, Ojibwe and Ho-Chunk who were dispossessed when the Irish arrived, the story of the author’s search for the connections between the contested land and the communities who call it home.  Part of the ESFL’s monthly “Women from the Center Reading Series.”

Friday, June 22, 7 PM Kevin Kuhn: Do you realize? A Novel.  Eat My Words, 1228 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis https://www.evensi.us/kevin-kuhndo-you-realize-a-novel-eat-my-words-bookstore/212898374

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You get the idea — These are June happenings only.  During the summer months Minnesotans will take part in these and a zillion other book/reading/word events.  To know what’s happening in your community,  keep checking these current – and complementary – calendars.  Each posts literary happenings set in bookstores, parks, coffee shops and wherever people who dare to share ideas gather.

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge;

it is thinking that makes what we read ours. John Locke

Escaping Anxiety This Summer of Our Discontent

By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something about the world.  Umberto Eco


In this summer of our discontent we have a sense that control has been wrested from our hands.  One way to be sure that we are not reduced by the situation in which we find ourselves is to explore our options – especially ideas and events that expand our thinking beyond the harsh reality of the day.  Here are just of few of the creative mind-refreshing events happening this summer – the tip of a mighty learning iceberg (which, unlike physical icebergs, is not melting as a result of human stupidity.) Clearly the major institutions have promoted grand events, exhibits, openings and more.  Following are just a just a very few of the initiatives with a bookish connection that may be slipping through the promotional cracks.  There’s no intent to be inclusive, simply to suggest that readers be on the lookout for escape routes from anxiety!

The 2017 Book Art Biennial.  “Shout Out: Community Intervention, Independent Publishing, and Alternative Distribution” is the theme of this biennial event.  Expect programming that “encourages people of all disciplines and skill levels to amplify individual and collective voice through grassroots artistic practice.” The centerpiece of the Book Art Biennial is the presentation of the MCBA Prize, a unique award that showcases and honors the best artists’ books in the world. The winner will be announced at a gala and awards ceremony the evening of Saturday, July 22. (http://www.mnbookarts.org/biennial)

Registration is open through June 11 for exhibitors at the Thirteenth Annual Twin Cities Zine Fest set for September 24 2017.   The Free For All Zine Lounge is now open through August 13 at Boneshaker Books, 2002 23rd Avenue South.  Sponsored by the Twin Cities Zine Fest (http://tczinefest.org)

A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. June 12 (7:00 PM – 8:30 PM) Minneapolis Central Library. IBé, Bao Phi and Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria as they read their essays from the timely book, “A Good Time for the Truth.” This collection from 16 local writers features reflective essays on life as a person of color in Minnesota. Q&A will follow the reading hosted by the editor Sun Yung Shin. Registration is encouraged and can be done here. (https://www.facebook.com/events/1761221477450326/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%223%22%2C%22ref_newsfeed_story_type%22%3A%22regular%22%2C%22feed_story_type%22%3A%22117%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D)

The East Side Freedom Library continues its monthly collaboration with A Greener Read Bookstore.  On June 16th the theme is “Storytelling through Vinyl and Film” Gather at 5:00 at the Bookstore, 506 Kenny Road in St. Paul, for happy hour and listening to music.  Focus will be on South African “kwaito” music, a blend of traditional South African forms and hip hop. ESFL will also continue their Women from the Center Reading Series, featuring the work of Midwest writers from diverse communities who support one another as they “write their truths.   Writers on the fourth Thursdays of the summer months include these:   June 22: Norah Murphy (White Birth, Red Hawthorn: A Memoir), July 27: Marcie Rendon (Murder on the Red River), August 24: Carolyn Holbrook (Earth Angels).  In fact, ESFL sponsors a robust summer programs overflowing with ideas and energy. ESFL is at 1105 Greenbrier Street, St Paul 55106. Check the full schedule here: (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org)

On Wednesday, June 21, Minneapolis parks will open more than 50 new Little Free Libraries  a gift from the Minneapolis Foundation to local families in honor of Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary. MPR hosts, local authors, and other guest readers will celebrate by reading children’s books at story times in parks all over the city, from sunrise to sunset on summer’s longest day. Book It to the Parks!  (http://www.minneapolisfoundation.org/bookit/)

Silverwood Park, in the far Northeast corner of Hennepin County, is one of the mighty county’s lesser known havens for creative expression of every sort.  Focus is on the talents of local and emerging artists. Silverwood Onstage is the summer series of amphitheater programs that include Wednesday night concerts, movies and a mixed bag of performances. For details on the diverse selections click here:   (https://www.threeriversparks.org/page/silverwood-onstage)

If you’re not already in a book group, you might want to join one of the several sponsored by the Minnesota Women’s Press.  To learn more, click here:  http://womenspress.com/main.asp?SectionID=10&SubSectionID=36&ArticleID=38&TM=62697.43

When’s the last time you reached out to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar bookstore?  Here are some possibilities that will welcome you with open tomes:   (https://www.newpages.com/independent-bookstores/minnesota-bookstores)

My favorite indie, Eat My Words, is moving up the road a piece this summer – still in Northeast Minneapolis.  More in a related blog post.   Meanwhile, the EMW calendar indicates more, not fewer, events.  Proprietor Scott VanKoughnett  confirms that event attendees will not be asked to tote armloads of books to the new site.  Click here for an interview with EMW Scott  VanKoughnett::  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tumRr08qkrc)

Traveling this summer?  The American Writers Museum, the gift of retired executive Malcolm O’Hagan and other donors, opened May 16 in Chicago.  (http://americanwritersmuseum.org)

Closer to home, you might want to check out the SoMN, a network of southern Minnesota history museums.  (http://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/5-must-see-museums-in-southern-minnesota/)

For the motherlode of ideas for summer escapes explore with the editors of Explore Minnesota their “bucket list” of possibilities!       (http://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/your-2017-minnesota-bucket-list/)

Little Free Libraries Share the Joy of Good Reads and Good Neighbors

Little Free Library at Silverwood Park

Little Free Library at Silverwood Park

For a very long time I’ve been intending to celebrate the growth and popularity of the Little Free Libraries that continue to pop up in neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities and far beyond.  The time is now, because the Little Free Library project has just received the 2013 Innovations in Reading Prize awarded by the National Book Foundation!  The prize honors individuals and institutions that have created innovative ways to initiate and sustain a lifelong love of learning.

In this case, the institution is the Little Free Library (LF) and the innovators are Todd Bol and Rick Brooks.  It all started in 2009 when the two men met at a workshop Brooks taught at UW-M where he was outreach program manager in continuing studies.  Brooks had some previous library experience helping build and maintain library collections in third world countries where he also had  experience in community development.  Bol was between gigs, obviously full of energy and ideas.  In the early years, LFL was a project of Wisconsin Partners for Sustainability.  Since 2012 LFL has operated as a nonprofit operating out of International HQ in Hudson Wisconsin.

The story is a delightful tale of a good idea brought to fruition by a couple of committed people with a vision.  Since the project began in 2009 Little Free Library exchanges have burst on the scene in 30 countries.  The first LFL consisted of a box of books that looked like a one-room schoolhouse with a sign that read “Free Books.”  The LFL was posted on Brooks’ front lawn in Hudson,  Wisconsin, established as a memorial to Bol’s mother, a bibliophile teacher

Today, the hub of the every LFL exchange is a bird-house size “library” that houses a snatch of books that circulate on the honor system.  The mission is “to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world.”   The founders remind participants in the exchange that “sense of community trumps everything.”

Little Free Libraries assume unique personalities and permutations as the ideas and adaptations expand.  In Minneapolis, the Books for All in Minneapolis (http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/books-for-all-in-minneapolis.html)  has its own structure and persona.  Each neighborhood that agrees to host a LFL identifies an individual or group to serve as a steward for their Library.  Stewards give the Library and books the care they need.  Sponsors contribute funds that cover the cost to build, deliver and install a unique LFL.  Each Library holds 20-40 books, many donated by generous sponsors such as Northeast Minneapolis publisher Coffee House Press which was contributed thousands of books and generous cash gifts to the project.  Each site sports a sign that recognizes the sponsor(s) and indicates that this LFL is registered as part of the city and now global network of exchanges.

LFL has also attracted the attention and generous support of AARP.  The Touch Points Project is designed to address the challenges faced by socially isolated older adults.  Bol and Brooks describe the project as one that write that “will build upon the connections and common interests stimulated by reading-related activities generated by neighborhood book exchanges.  The idea is to bring people together by reading aloud, promoting friendly visits, book discussions and other ways to engage isolated older adults in community life, especially those who are vulnerable to loneliness and ill health because of limited means.  The steps and procedures for interested individuals and groups to participate in the AARP project are available at http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/reaching-out-to-socially-isolated-older-adults.

No surprise, libraries are key players in the LFL movement.  Though there is no requirement for library involvement, Brooks and Bol say that “this entire program has been designed with Friends of Libraries in mind.  Little Libraries offer creative and upbeat outreach tools to extend the reach of the public library to parts of your community that might not otherwise use it.”

The LFL website (http://www.littlefreelibrary.org) is a vibrant and endlessly informative resource.  Check it out for an update on the project’s global development, including an interactive map of sites,  and details about LFL sites, especially photos of the imaginative designs created by readers and craftspeople of every stripe.  Through June 21, 2013 you’ll have a chance to participate in the LFL film festival!  You’ll also find a great video that introduces Brooks and Bol  putting words to their vision – you’ll soon find yourself envisioning a host of LFL’s popping up in your own  front yard or neighborhood.