Take a stroll down Kirk Avenue in San Jose, California, and you’ll discover a reader’s delight: a waystation of sorts with a comfortable bench, street lamp, and no fewer than four Little Free Library book-sharing boxes, festively adorned with a sign proclaiming you’ve arrived at THE PHANTOM DOLEBOOTH.
Prev Dole is the steward of this wonderful creation (charter #78672—find it on our world map). She had seen Little Free Library book-sharing boxes for years in other neighborhoods and decided it was time to create her own in honor of her mother, Precy.
“I’ve always loved reading and spent many summers in the library as a child, always learning and always eager to go on an adventure. My parents couldn’t afford much back then, barely able to cover rent and food. [They] worked hard and my mom was an amazing woman and teacher,” says Prev.
“As an adult, I wanted the opportunity to give back to the community in a positive and impactful way and provide a safe place full of books for kids and adults. I wanted to help spread the spirit of sharing and kindness, imagination and knowledge, neighborhood and community. Having a Little Free Library does all that and more.”
How did you decide to call the library The Phantom Dolebooth?
“The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my all-time favorite books as a child and it was fitting, incorporating my new last name (Dole) which I also wanted to honor. My husband, Jim, has been incredibly supportive of this project and is always so full of encouragement. The book’s introductory theme was also inspiring: ‘Come here if you’re bored and go on an adventure of a lifetime!’ The look of our little library was actually inspired by the tollbooth seen in the movie—my husband’s idea!”
What type of books are most popular in your Little Free Library?
“Children’s books are always very popular. Any themed giveaways like Harry Potter are always popular, too … we always have books in the following categories represented: adults, teens, elementary/toddler, and special items/featured titles.
“We’re fortunate in that we live one house away from an elementary school and a block away from a veteran’s housing center; several churches and temples are nearby. We have regular visitors of adults and families and see a steady traffic of 5 – 10 visitors per day, and even more during peak school season. That’s why we expanded from one little library to four!”
How do you keep your Little Free Library book boxes stocked?
“In the beginning (2018), my husband and I personally stocked it ourselves, but after the first month, it became self-maintained with donations from our amazing community. We held our official ‘Grand Opening’ in June 2019. At that time we started a monthly outdoor movie day where we also do a book giveaway.
“In June we showed The Phantom Tollboth movie; in July we showed Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory; in August we didn’t show a movie but did a back-to-school theme where we gave away gift bags of school supplies; in September we showed the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, etc.
“Social media has really been a valuable tool when it comes to spreading the word. With apps like Nextdoor.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, once you post and get the word out, you can rely on others to keep spreading the news. That’s helped with generating a healthy flow of visitors to our library.”
What has been your biggest challenge as a Little Free Library steward?
“One challenge is coming up with the monthly movie themes and related activities and then setting and sticking with a budget for the event. Admittedly, I tend to overdo things! Another, and it’s not so much a challenge, but I have to find ways to reassure visitors that Little Free Library book-sharing boxes are indeed FREE.”
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