Rose Buckens and Jo Ann Jaacks are on a mission to bring Little Free Libraries to Litchfield, Connecticut and the surrounding towns. They’ve built over 16 Little Free Libraries to-date and are well on their way to build more.
But some of their Little Free Library book exchanges don’t only share books. Jaacks and Buckens expanded on the traditional “Take a Book, Return a Book” idea.
Below we’ll share their creative new ideas when it comes to exchanging items in Little Free Libraries. You’ll also learn how they raised funds, promoted their project, and set up a group build day to create 16 Little Free Libraries in one event!
Starting Out and the First Library Build Day
Buckens first discovered a Little Free Library in Lordship, CT. It looked like a tiny schoolhouse and was dedicated to Victoria Soto, a teacher who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. She immediately decided to start a Library of her own.
“I found a cabinet that fit 100 books [and put it in my front yard], hung up my sign that said ‘take a book – leave a book,’ and watched with amazement as many people stopped to visit! Then, one day, someone stole all the books, the cabinet and the sign! I decided to rebuild my Library and work with the community to start a Little Free Library movement in all my neighboring towns,” said Buckens.
After running into Buckens at the Morris Marketplace, Jaacks was inspired by her enthusiasm for Little Free Libraries, and knew that she wanted to help.
Jaacks said, “I soon joined Rose in what became our common mission as The Litchfield Hills Little Free Library Grass Roots Project. The first event was a building workshop at filmmaker Harvey Hubbell’s farm in Litchfield, inviting Morris carpenters, roofers, Boy Scouts and artists to build a total of 16 book exchange boxes.”
As an event-planner and publicist, Jaacks knew how to get publicity for their joint project. She reached out to Ann Nyberg, a well-known Connecticut news anchor who hosts her own weekly show, NYBERG. She was thrilled when the Litchfield Hills Little Free Library project was granted a slot on the show.
“Our appearance on Ann’s show, although during a sleeting rainstorm in downtown New Haven, where we had to grab our Show & Tell—an actual Little Free Library painted in a classic library shelf motif by my sister Kathy Percoski—and run into the studio, was a joyous experience on many levels,” reported Jaacks.
Jaacks knew that the more publicity she could get, the more their Little Free Library project would grow. “I’m the one taking the pictures of each new Library and event, and sending them off to the local media. It helps that I write for the local newspaper, but anyone can craft a brief media release, take a good-quality digital photo that tells the story, and email it to newspapers, radio, and TV stations.”
Reaching out to media outlets isn’t the only way to get publicity, either; try taking advantage of local events.
Buckens and Jaacks donated a beautiful Little Library, stocked with books and adorned with a copper roof, to a nearby public library’s annual fundraiser. That way, their project and a photo of the Library they donated would be included in the fliers, social media posts and outreach that the public library set up to promote their event.
Nonprofit endeavors require funds, so Jaacks and Buckens use tag sales (also called garage sales or yard sales) to raise money.
The concept is simple. Friends, family, community members and local businesses donate clothes, furniture and other gently used items for the sale. All proceeds go to fund the Litchfield Hills Little Free Library project.
“Tag sales are a great fundraiser because everything is donated by friends, supporters and the local consignment shops and boutiques that are changing their seasonal offerings. I even pick up wonderful items at my town recycling center! We also had a logo designed, made letterhead and envelopes to send out donor sponsorship letters, and were asked to speak at our local business association. We also plan to appeal to local civic groups such as Rotarians and Lions Club members. Rose and I talk about Little Free Libraries everywhere we go,” said Jaacks.
Going Beyond Books
Jaacks joked that they’re quickly becoming the “Books and Beyond” segment of the national Little Free Library movement. They’ve expanded the idea into a Little Lego Library outside of the Morris Public Library, a Little Free Seeds Library at a farm in Litchfield, and a Little Free Necessities Library in front of the American Legion Hall in both Litchfield and Bethlehem.
The Little Free Necessities Library will be stocked with travel-sized toiletries that will also be shipped to military personnel abroad, a similar idea to the Little Free Pantry project.
If you’d like to learn more about the Litchfield Hills Little Free Library Grass Roots Project, please contact Rose Buckens at 203.770.4156 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow them on Facebook.
Are you interested in starting a Little Free Library? Learn how to get started.