Little Free Library #4095 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, doesn’t just have one steward…. it has twelve. Creating the library and maintaining it are a neighborhood effort.

“Years ago I heard about little libraries and brought up the idea at our neighborhood winter get-together,” says steward Pam Millington. “It soon became a neighborhood project. We worked with our alderman to get permission from the city to put it on city property. Different neighbors built the library, painted and decorated it, got the post installed, repainted when needed, fixed the hinges, etc. Twelve neighbors volunteered to be stewards the first year.”

Pam, along with her neighbors, have been taking care of this little library for nearly a decade now. We asked her to share her advice as an experienced steward.

How do you keep the library stocked?

We rotate stewards each month so stocking is spread among 12 volunteers. Each steward is responsible for their month. If the steward needs more books they can always put out a request for books to our neighborhood email group. It’s interesting that the type of books vary every month depending on the steward. Some months there are more mysteries, other times non-fiction or romance novels. Recently we are getting more children’s books.

How does the rotating steward system work?

I am the steward in January (mainly because I don’t get to the scheduling beforehand). I send out an email to the current stewards asking them if they want to be a steward for the next year and if they have a preference for their month. If we need more stewards, I just email our neighborhood group and get a new volunteer.

I send out the schedule to all the stewards. At the beginning of each month, I send that month’s steward a reminder. This year we had a steward party (before Covid) and I was surprised that everybody wanted to go around the room and find out what month everyone had.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Our biggest challenge has been the few times that someone took all our books at once. It happened 2 – 3 times. When that happens, we email our neighborhood group and usually the next day the library is full. Our library is on a busy street and across from a bike trail. We get a lot of visitors so there is a lot more “taking” than “leaving” but with 12 stewards it works out.

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

What’s surprised me is how easy managing it has been because of the support of neighbors! Not just the fact that they help as stewards, but they also use the library and chip in to help when needed.

Read more in the steward spotlight series or learn how to build a Little Free Library book-sharing box!

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