Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 14, 2013

Marta Hepler Drahos: Library on every corner

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Shortly after seeing a national broadcast about the Little Free Library movement sweeping the country, I was assigned a story on the region’s first registered Little Free Library at Spruce and Sixth Streets.

I was intrigued by the idea of a steady supply of books right in your own neighborhood, an informal collection neighbors and passersby could share, enjoy and add to.

A voracious reader and library patron, I’m told I was checking out five books a week from the small local library before I was enrolled in kindergarten.

Encouraged by a serious librarian, who felt kids should take ownership in their lending library, I scrawled my name on the library card in an illegible hand.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve flopping on my mom’s bed with my sisters to listen to her read aloud from “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” “Little Women” and other family favorites (at 81 she could still recite entire passages from them).

Later the four us traded books we bought to supplement what we borrowed. Books that were returned to me and not passed on got donated to library book sales.

When I moved to rural northern Michigan, my pickings grew to include books from shelves at local businesses like the post office, the bank and fitness club.

They were books that you could borrow without checking out and that you could return at any time without incurring overdue fines.

Once a year, my mom selected several of these books to store in a box in her closet, like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter.

“I feel rich,” she’d say, as we drove home with her treasures in the back seat.

After she died, I started my own version of the Little Free Library in the bookcase beneath her window seat.

It holds only books I have read and enjoyed, meaning certain authors and genres are banned from its shelves.

Rental guests are welcome to select a book or two to read on vacation or to take home and keep without guilt. The collection is constantly replenished as I pick up favorite reads at book sales.

Still, I continue to mull over the possibility of a real Little Free Library at the edge of my neighborhood, bordering a well-traveled road that connects two counties.

Instead of a cedar shake saltbox or a gingerbread Victorian, its design would resemble a dog house decorated with paw prints and dog bones.

Only instead of “Fido” painted over the door, it would boast a Little Free Library plate.

Reach staff writer Marta Hepler Drahos at