In general, libraries are great civic institutions. By any measure, the Newton Free Library is a great town library. Aside from it’s own collection and it’s access to the Minuteman Library system’s collection, it’s beautifully appointed and also serves as a community center. Any week of the year there are a whole series of free events held at the library – author talks, local history, art etc.
The one major downside of building the beautiful, central Newton Free library was that the city closed down all of the neighborhood branch libraries. Two of those branch libraries though survived in a different form. The Auburndale and Waban Library mutated into volunteer run neighborhood libraries. Each of these volunteer run libraries are also wonderful civic institutions that fill a somewhat different role than the central Free Library. Both the Auburndale and Waban Library of course lend books but they also serve as the heart of each of those neighborhoods. They each host a broad array of neighborhood activities – everything from clubs meetings, author talks, concerts, theater, etc. Our own Newton Nomadic Theater has performed regularly at both of them.
There’s even one more, even less known, layer of libraries in the city. Right around the corner from my house on Rockland Place, our neighbors Margaret & Mick Alexander are the proprietor of a “Little Free Library” (bottom photo). 1000’s of these itty bitty neighborhood libraries have sprung up in recent years all across the country. They’re homemade, little weatherproof sheds that hold a shelf or two of books and are planted by a homeowner in their front yard – for their neighbors use. I’m a regular user of Margaret & Mick’s library.
I just received an email this morning from Emily Williams, another Upper Falls neighbor who lives about a half mile away on Cottage St. She was inspired by Margaret & Mick’s and decided to open her own Little Free Library for her Cottage St neighbors up in Upper Upper Falls. She just sent a photo (above) of her just constructed library being tested for its weather-proofed’ness in yesterday’s snow. She’s officially opening her library for business at 12 Cottage St on Sunday Feb 14 at noon. To sweeten the pot, she’s providing free cookies for her neighbors.
This is a movement I’d love to see spread across the city. There’s a wonderful vibe that it brings to a neighborhood when neighbors, who otherwise might not know each other, begin sharing books and crossing paths at an itty-bitty library.
Do you know of any other Little Free Libraries in Newton? If so, let us know where. If not, get to work with your carpentry skills.