It may seem as if oversized bird houses are popping up around Wayne State. However, these oversized bird houses are actually Little Free Libraries, which have become more prominent because of Detroit Little Libraries’ work in expanding the nonprofit’s goal.
The organization’s mission is to inspire a love of reading, build community and spark creativity “by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world,” according to the Little Free Library website.
Founder of Detroit Little Libraries, Kim Kozlowski, started the organization in 2014 after finding a Little Free Library in her own neighborhood. She said she found the concept of the libraries fascinating and obtained her own library to put outside of her home.
“I just couldn’t believe what happened in our neighborhood. We started meeting people and talking to our neighbors that had lived there for ten years,” Kozlowski said.
Moved by the reactions she witnessed in her neighborhood, Kozlowski said she was inspired to bring Little Free Libraries to Detroit to brighten up the city. It had just come out of bankruptcy and she said it was the perfect time to crowd fund to get Detroit Little Libraries off the ground.
“I decided that it would be great to kind of spread that same kind of energy that I had experienced in my own neighborhood into neighborhoods throughout Detroit,” Kozlowski said.
After raising $5,000 in donations, Kozlowski began purchasing libraries and giving them away to people in Detroit willing to take them off her hands and give them a good home. Shortly thereafter, the founder of Little Free Library came out to Detroit to donate 20 libraries to Detroit Little Free Libraries’ cause.
Kozlowski said she specifically worked to place the libraries in neighborhoods potentially lacking resources.
“We have been making an effort to get into communities where the libraries are needed, in communities where children don’t have much. That has been our strategy,” Kozlowski said.
Little Free Libraries have spread throughout midtown, as well. From Cass Community United Methodist Church to University Preparatory Academy Elementary School, they are all within walking distance on or near campus.
Little Free Libraries are no longer just for the younger demographics, offering selections from biology textbooks to gluten free cookbooks. In the exchange of books, Little Free Libraries and Detroit Little Libraries have done well in creating a sense of community with minimal limitations or rules.
Students, faculty and passers-by are encouraged to explore the contents of these libraries and take and return books without the burden of due dates and library cards.
“On college campuses, we have seen more pop up as a place for students to exchange either textbooks that they figure aren’t worth reselling because they’re not going to get much money for or books for reading for pleasure, which often falls off the map when you’re in college and you’re buried under homework,” said Margret Aldrich, program manager of Little Free Libraries.
From college campuses to neighborhoods throughout the city, Detroit Little Libraries has been strategically planting libraries over the last two and a half years. Their goal is to plant 313 libraries in Detroit to create a positive image in the city.
“Detroit is not considered the Little Free Library capital. It was a goal I set to change the image of Detroit as it was climbing out of bankruptcy,” said Kozlowski. “For a long time, the city has had many negative monikers, including the murder capital. I thought it would be a good idea to try and change the image of the city with something positive.”