When Lori Savage Grayson first saw a photo of a Little Free Library book box in 2014, she knew she wanted to start one. As the Founder and Director of Children’s Communication Center in Tallahassee, Florida, Lori knew the big benefits of exposing children to words, both written and spoken, at an early age. Lori says, “Since language is the foundation for literacy and learning, a stronger language foundation culminates with increased success at school and in academics.”
Lori Savage Grayson stands next to the “Little Ones Rock” trio of Little Free Library book exchanges.
Lori has been a Little Free Library volunteer steward three years now. We asked her to share her experience and advice to help others successfully start and run a little library!
When did you put up the “Little Ones Rock” library trio?
“In May 2017, in conjunction with Better Hearing and Speech Month and Take Your Parents to the Playground Day, we dedicated the Little Free Library (charter #52980) at the Winthrop Park playground. I’m a pediatric speech-language pathologist, and the idea of having a little library in an area where little ones (and their families) visit and play was perfect.
“I knew a local artist who painted the libraries. At the dedication event, I invited several friends. One is a local storyteller; one is a children’s book author; and one is a local baker, who brought cupcakes decorated with the alphabet! We asked the families who attended to bring a book to share with our local Guardian ad Litem program, which advocates for the rights of abused and neglected children.”
How many books do you think rotate through the library boxes on a weekly basis?
“Our best estimate is more than 50 books per week, however, others who regularly visit the libraries tell us it may be much more that. During summertime, it might be 50 books per day! During the first year alone we estimated more than 2,000 books were shared.”
Did you face any challenges trying to start the library boxes?
“We didn’t face any big challenges, but hit a few bumps. The little libraries are installed at a city playground, so we had to follow city regulations and first donate the libraries to the city so they could install them.
“When I first approached the Parks and Recreation department, it was a busy time of year, so I had a short window to order the libraries from the Little Free Library org and still address any concerns from the city. Everyone worked together and the staff at Little Free Library were extremely helpful in making sure the libraries arrived on time!”
What’s surprised you the most about being a Little Free Library volunteer steward?
“How seamlessly being a steward merged with all I do as a pediatric speech-language pathologist! How I smile when little ones fill the libraries with gifts…I smile a bit less when they draw in chalk on the library or when the local graffiti artist signed his name on the Plexiglas window, but that was easily removed.
“I love watching little ones run to the library before they hit the playground. I don’t have a guest book in the library, but I do get thank-you texts and messages from little ones and adults!”
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of starting a library?
“Be patient! It took about six weeks for our community to start sharing books in the libraries. Use social media, too. I’m a member of several local Facebook pages and I volunteer at neighborhood events where I can share and collect books, explain the story of our little libraries, and emphasize the importance of building a family reading tradition. Meet your local librarian or media specialist at nearby schools. They may be glad to share discarded books.
“Somewhere I read that it’s important not to overfill the library, and I’ve found this to be good advice. When friends send me pictures of the empty libraries, I don’t run over and fill them right away. I wait to see how the community will react. As we approach year three, I often bring books home as the libraries are filled so there’s space inside for more.
“I also make it clear that Little Free Library isn’t a trade-in program. Visitors can borrow a book even if they don’t leave one. Thank visitors for their support, which leads to the successful enjoyment and use of the libraries!
“While I don’t maintain a specific Facebook page for the libraries because I already maintain one for Children’s Communication Center, I think self-promotion and community involvement are valuable avenues to increase awareness and use of the libraries.
“At this point, I get messages weekly about someone wanting to drop off books. Parents often thank me and tell me they now keep books in their car to donate when they come to the playground!”