The public library in Ojai Valley, California, and the Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation (OVLFF) came up with an ingenious way to get kids excited about books and encourage them to read more.

They encouraged kids to visit at least 10 of the Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in the Ojai Valley area and take a selfie at each one. Then, kids could present the evidence of their Little Library visits to librarians at the Ojai Public Library in exchange for a gift certificate to the library’s bookstore. “It’s a great way to get the community involved with the local Little Free Libraries,” says Kris Humphries, the OVLFF Outreach Chair.

How did Ojai Valley come to have so many Little Free Library book exchanges in the first place? In 2017, the OVLFF received a grant from the Ojai Women’s Fund to help them install twelve Libraries around Ojai. They started by identifying book deserts in the area—neighborhoods whose residents would have the hardest time getting to a branch of the public library.

Casitas Springs Little Free Library

Little Free Library #68652, designed by a local artist and placed in Casitas Springs.

One such book desert was identified in Casitas Springs, an area that was heavily impacted by the Thomas Fire in 2017. Little Free Library #68652 is now filling that book desert, providing access to books to many residents whose homes and belongings were lost in the wildfire. (You can find this Library and thousands more on the Little Free Library world map.)

Libraries were also placed at every local elementary school, and with the help of the Ventura County Parks & Recreation Department, all Little Libraries are regularly monitored. “The artist who painted the Casitas Springs Library is Sunday Rylander. She volunteered specifically for that location as she has many friends who live in the area. It is truly a work of art! The neighbors are thrilled to have books within walking distance of their homes,” says Humphries.

The OVLFF’s latest Little Free Library was put up outside the Humane Society of Ventura County and is kept well stocked with support from the Ojai Public Library’s bookstore. Kids are encouraged to pick books from the Little Free Library and read with the animals at the shelter. ” We are so excited by this partnership and how this Library combines a love of literacy with the Humane Society’s mission!” says Humphries.

Humane Society Little Free Library

The Little Free Library installed outside the Humane Society of Ventura County.

Little Free Library book-sharing boxes are a natural complement to public library services, and the Ojai Public Library isn’t the only one taking advantage of the book access Little Free Libraries provide. In Saline, MI, the public library helped create a Passport to Reading event which was a big hit with residents. Learn how to start a Little Free Library of your own!

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