Steward Spotlight: Sarah Kooiman

By Sarah Howd

Sarah Kooiman had wanted to start a Little Free Library for several years, but things finally started moving in that direction during the pandemic. “I was reading more than ever and struggling with one of the most significant depressive phases in my recent memory all while the virus was raging, the country was facing a reckoning for racial justice, and everything continued to feel heavier and heavier,” says Sarah. 

“I knew I couldn’t be the only one who looked to books for comfort, joy, encouragement, hope, knowledge, and laughter in times like this. My husband is a skilled woodworker, so it became the perfect pandemic project for both of us.” 

The Little Corner Library charter #115773 launched Mother’s Day 2021—find it on the Little Free Library world map! To spread the word and encourage neighbors to visit the Library, Sarah hosted a Grand Opening Celebration! 

What all was involved in your Grand Opening Celebration?

I wanted to make The Little Corner Library as welcoming to our entire neighborhood as possible, so I knew the Grand Opening had to make a big impression, especially considering we had all been so isolated for the last year. I coordinated with my local gym to allow me to collect book donations from members and printed out custom bookmarks to put in the books that were donated with a promo code for the gym and displayed a flyer inviting all members to the Grand Opening. This initiative alone brought in over 100 donated books! 

Leading up to the Grand Opening, I personally invited many friends and neighbors, printed out several flyers and dropped them off with a free book at houses that I knew had elementary or preschool age kids. I posted on our Nextdoor site, made a Facebook event, and shared on our social media. 

For the event itself, I stocked The Little Corner Library with a variety of books for all ages and also brought out our Book Cart of additional titles. We created a rainbow balloon arch using a simple kit purchased at our local craft store and installed that over the top of the library, so it was a bright and cheery eye-catching element from the street. We also brought in a local gourmet popsicle company who does adorable rainbow pop carts and handed out free pops to visitors, with an optional donation bucket available. Finally, a local yard sign company installed a huge announcement next to the library, all along the sidewalk that said, “Little Free Library Grand Opening” so everyone who walked or drove by would know exactly what was going on! Toss in a bubble machine and a few little treats for kids and we had a wonderful and safe event! 

How do you use social media to keep things interesting at your little library?

Every week, I swap out a majority of the books in our little library for fresh titles, so I started creating a Reel for Instagram for every “Shelf Shuffle.” It’s a simple video that shows the new books I just put out, but they’re a great way to let people see what kind of books we have! I love using Instagram to share what I’m currently reading, get suggestions for books I should be on the lookout for, and to get inspiration from other Little Free Libraries! 

What has been your biggest challenge as a steward?

So far, the biggest challenge has been keeping the library stocked with diverse children’s and middle grade books. When we opened, I purchased a large number of these for our #ReadinColor initiative and was thrilled to see many of them get borrowed right away. It’s a double-edged sword though because now I have almost none left! It’s a great problem to have, but it’s a struggle to keep up the kind of selection I aim to provide without donations. 

What has surprised you the most since you started a little library?

We honestly didn’t know if it would get any traffic. Ours is the only registered Little Free Library in our neighborhood and it’s located on a busy street, but we had no clue if anyone would find it interesting. As it turns out, it is FAR more popular than we ever expected! I had a woman stop me one morning and tell me that it has become a regular stop on her daily walk with her four kids and they look forward to it every day. The feedback in our guestbook tells us that the people who are using the Little Library see it as a valuable asset to our community, which means the world to us. 

Learn how you can start a Little Free Library for your neighborhood!

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