Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement

Little Free Library’s late founder, Todd H. Bol, believed strongly in the power of individuals (and especially Little Free Library stewards) to change the world through acts of kindness. We hear stories every day of outstanding stewards who repair others’ little libraries; who have created networks of book-sharing boxes; or who work tirelessly to strengthen the sense of community in their area.

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2022 Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement! Scroll down to read the inspiring stories of all six winners of this year’s awards.

Winners of the 2022 Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement

Click on the name beneath any image to learn more.

Storytime Crafts, Lisa Vergara, Needham, Massachusetts

Storytime Crafts is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization created to promote two of our favorite things: literacy and kindness. The nonprofit is dedicated to providing underserved communities with resources that can help bridge the literacy gap. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, forcing schools to close, Storytime Crafts pivoted to installing Little Free Library book-sharing boxes.

“Our goal is to increase access to culturally diverse books for readers of all ages and backgrounds and foster neighborhood book exchanges throughout communities where children and families do not have access to books,” said founder Lisa Vergara.

Storytime Crafts matches a sponsor with each Little Free Library placed in a community to promote the joy of reading. One of their Little Free Libraries was granted through our Impact Library Program and installed at Brookview House, a multi-service organization for women, children, and youth experiencing homelessness. Other locations include Dimock Community Health Center, Roxbury; Thomas M. Menino YMCA, Hyde Park; and Joseph P. Tynan Elementary School, South Boston.

Evgenia Pirog, Kyiv, Ukraine

Evgenia Pirog is a writer and literacy advocate who first brought Little Free Libraries to Ukraine ten years ago. Her goal was to increase the availability of books and encourage children to read. Through her initiative Додай читання (“Add Reading”), she enlisted the help of other writers, artists, teachers, librarians, and parents to grow the Little Free Library movement in Ukraine. They have since created 182 book-sharing boxes in 27 cities across the country.

“Our small libraries have become big magnets—they have attracted books, reading projects, and meetings with writers,” Evgenia said. “The library movement has given me many friends and like-minded people across the country and beyond. This, as well as joining the lively reading of hundreds of children, made me happier. My experience has shown that books are truly a magical tool. And the joint work of adults and children strengthens understanding and friendship between them. This is more important today than ever. Together we are strong.”

 

Kristine Dowhan, St. Petersburg, Florida

Kristine Dowhan started a Little Free Library made from a telephone booth at her home when the pandemic closed public libraries in her St. Petersburg community. But she didn’t stop there. Kristine has also placed 236 Little Free Libraries made from upcycled Tampa Bay Times newsstands!

Stewarding these newsstands-turned-libraries is a group effort. Kristine has built up an impressive network of more than 260 local volunteers in St. Petersburg. Through this network, more than 200,000 books have been freely shared throughout the Tampa Bay community.

“My project was my pandemic lifeline, and there were points where it was the only thing holding me together and keeping me sane,” said Kristine. “So many of my stewards feel the same about their libraries. I’ve made so many new friends and acquaintances through the project, and the opportunities to grow as an individual and as a leader have been endless.”

Dionna Roberts and Kellen Deau, Kalamazoo, Michigan

In March of 2020, Dionna and Kellen had an idea to plant Little Free Libraries in areas of Kalamazoo considered book deserts. This project was launched as a means of addressing inequities in book access, which became even more pronounced during school shutdowns caused by the pandemic. Together they installed more than 30 new Little Free Libraries throughout Kalamazoo and became part of LFL’s Read in Color program.

“Previous to our project, Little Free Libraries could be found in wealthier Kalamazoo neighborhoods. The goal of our project was to plant Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods that have less access to literacy and where these small libraries are uncommon,” says Kellen.

“The feeling associated with being a Little Free Library steward in my neighborhood is priceless,” said Dionna. “Providing free book access to families is fun and impactful. I am honored and grateful to be a part of the Little Free Library community of change agents who take great pride in making our worlds brighter and better with books!”

Asher and Zane Kohn, Scarsdale, New York

After their local public library installed five Little Free Libraries around town, Asher and Zane Kohn started the “Diverse Books Teach Tolerance” project. The brothers use Little Free Libraries to distribute free books by diverse authors or about the experiences of diverse groups. Every month, they share a new selection of books for child, teen, and adult readers. Each diverse book has a sticker, QR code, and a bookmark that explains the Diverse Books Teach Tolerance program. Asher and Zane are Little Free Library stewards themselves and have even started an Action Book Club.

“Volunteering as stewards and running the Diverse Books Teach Tolerance program make us feel a part of something that is bigger than ourselves,” said Asher and Zane. “We think that Little Free Libraries are a great way for teens to get involved in their communities and we hope our experience will inspire other teens around the country to start diverse books projects in their hometowns.”

Alejandro De La Peña, Jr., El Paso, Texas

When teacher Alejandro De La Peña realized only about 1 in 10 schools in his area of El Paso had a Little Free Library, he decided to take action. He established a Little Free Library at Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School. 

“I feel an obligation to the community to keep spreading the will to take action on issues that need to be addressed,” said Alejandro. “This LFL shows that even though I don’t see when the books are taken or by whom, it is still making an impact on any member of our community. I feel like an anonymous ‘book fairy’—hardly anyone knows that I exist and I magically bring them brand new, free books that are worth so much more than a ‘quarter under their pillow’. It’s an awesome feeling. 

“I even created a Classroom Job for my special education students called ‘Little Free Library Liaison’. I help them stamp the books and we go restock it weekly as part of developing their life skills for possibly a future employment skill.”

Winners of the 2021 Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement

Click on the name beneath any image to learn more.

Sarah Kamya, Arlington, Massachusetts

Sarah Kamya is on a mission to bring diverse books to her community and beyond. She started with one Little Free Library dedicated to sharing books that amplify and empower BIPOC voices. She now has eight more diverse libraries, with plans to expand further. In addition, Sarah has shipped hundreds of diverse books to Little Free Libraries in all 50 states to spread the message that recognizing and celebrating our differences can bring us closer together.

“My Little Free Library has had an impact on me personally, because I have seen firsthand the power of books and how they can transform one’s belief about themselves,” says Sarah. “When I started my Little Free Library, I wanted little Black and Brown girls to be able to pick up a book and see someone who looked like them, who shared similar stories as them, who was able to overcome obstacles like them, and who could just be Black and amazing. I believe my Little Free Library acts as a beacon of hope and promise to myself and future generations of BIPOC youth, that we do indeed matter.”

Dan and Trina Wiswell, Tacoma, Washington

Not only are Dan and Trina Wiswell Little Free Library stewards, they are Little Free Library superfans. Dan and Trina have visited nearly 2,000 Little Free Libraries and “book bombed” them with more than 11,000 books.

Dan and Trina have visited libraries in eight states—Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, and Florida—as well as Vancouver Island in Canada. They have also been an inspiration to other Little Free Library stewards and patrons who want to visit libraries and share books. Many people keep books in the trunks of their cars so they always have a book handy to share, thanks to Dan and Trina’s example.

“Visiting libraries has allowed us to see all the creativity of people’s libraries. Additionally, we have met many stewards, and some have become good friends,” says Dan. “Our library and book bombing allows us to share time doing something we enjoy while, hopefully, benefiting other stewards and their patrons.”

Seraphin Niyonsenga, Kigali, Rwanda

Seraphin Niyonsenga was living in Davis, California, in 2016 as a Fulbright Exchange Fellow. On his morning runs, he passed by Little Free Library book boxes, which always caught his attention. He realized that the Little Free Library model could be an answer to bridging the literacy gap in his home country of Rwanda, where the cost of establishing and maintaining a conventional library is prohibitively high.

“By bringing kids and adults from all backgrounds together around a book, the Little Free Library is a tool to build the community,” says Seraphin. “By borrowing, returning and caring for books, we instill in children good values to respect public goods and care for the community. We have noticed that children from poor families are the ones most interested in picking and reading books. Seeing kids flock to my LFL has been something fulfilling to me…. I feel happy to see that this LFL has helped me to give back to my community.”

Katie Stuart, Poulsbo, Washington

High school senior Katie Stuart shares her love of reading through her popular Little Free Library, which is dedicated entirely to children’s books.

“As a child, and even now, I always loved finding new books to read wherever I could, and a children’s Little Free Library near me would have meant so much,” Katie says. “I have seen so many kids come back week after week, because they discovered a love of reading at my Little Free Library.”

Since Katie established the library six years ago, it has inspired her to do more for her community. She adapted almost 50 books for online use to make them more accessible for children with disabilities. She created digital book recordings for kids during the pandemic. And she is the first student representative in her local government’s Community Service Committee.

Russell Schnell, Boulder, Colorado

Dr. Russell Schnell established the first Little Free Library in Antarctica. Because of this, there are now little libraries on every continent. Schnell—an atmospheric scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change—built the Little Free Library at his home in Boulder, Colorado, then shipped it to the South Pole, where he had previously worked. The Little Free Library is located inside NOAA’s Atmospheric Research Observatory.

The South Pole Little Free Library is Schnell’s 37th installation. He built his first library in 2013 for his daughter’s home in St. Louis followed by another for his own home. Since then he has created libraries for locations like Mount Fuji, Japan; an Aboriginal area in Warrnambool, Australia; and a First Peoples Cree reserve in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada. Schnell prides himself on using recycled materials whenever he can. Schnell’s passion for Little Free Libraries was inspired by a lack of book access when he was growing up. “I did not have books as a child and still know the feeling,” he says.

Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati, Michelle Otten Guenther, Cincinnati, Ohio

The Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati has distributed nearly 75,000 books since they launched their Little Free Library journey, which started after a fortuitous meeting with LFL founder Todd Bol in 2017. Since then, they’ve installed 99 libraries, 14 more are pending installation, and 37 more are available for new stewards to claim.

“Many of the children and adults that we have the privilege to serve live in economically-disadvantaged communities, so we wanted to focus on bringing LFLs to these neighborhoods,” says Michelle. Our stewards range in age from the octogenarian grandmother that looks out for everyone on her block to the 11-year old who single-handedly coordinated a holiday neighborhood gathering at his LFL. Books have always had the unique ability to connect us, encourage collaboration and enable us to see different points of view. Now, more than ever, we need to celebrate our individual differences and our common humanity and LFLs are the perfect conduit.”

Winners of the 2020 Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement

Click on the name beneath any image to learn more.

Heather Butts, Beechurst, New York

Heather Butts has launched more than 40 Little Free Library book exchanges in New York and New Jersey, working with her nonprofit organization HEALTH for Youths, public schools, the New York Police Department, and others. She has been a vital part of bringing little libraries and a sense of togetherness to the area.

“Little Free Libraries have been transformative for the neighborhoods mainly because the community members are working with their communities to make them something special and a living, breathing part of their neighborhoods,” Butts said. “We are pleased that we have turned several of our Little Free Libraries into pantries during COVID-19 to help people deal with getting the food they need to feed themselves and their families.”

Nancy Wulkan, Chicago, Illinois

Nancy Wulkan installed her first two Little Free Libraries in Chicago parks in 2018 and immediately saw the impact on families, neighbors, the local homeless population and others. Since then, Nancy has founded the Neighbor Literacy Project and donated twelve more library boxes to her city.

“I’ve loved the opportunity to share the power of books and reading to positively impact neighborhoods in Chicago,” Wulkan said. “Establishing a Little Free Library in a neighborhood, especially one that has limited book resources, makes a statement that someone cares, the community is trusted, the community is valued.

“Being a library steward has allowed me to meet people from all walks of life who experience books and reading from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives,” she continued. “Seeing the unexpected joy on a LFL visitor’s face when they find this box of free books in their community reminds me that big trees grow from little seeds.”

Hindi's Libraries, Cedarhurst, New York

Hindi’s Libraries has a touching origin story. When Hindi Krinsky, a teacher and mother of five, died suddenly at the age of 32, her friend Leslie Gang and Hindi’s husband Dovid Kanarfogel established three schoolyard Little Free Libraries in her honor. Then something unexpected happened: Members of the community donated hundreds of books. When the books kept coming, Leslie and Dovid established Hindi’s Libraries, a nonprofit organization that has provided more than 90,000 books to organizations across the United States, Israel, Africa and India. Hindi’s Libraries has also provided books to Little Free Library stewards who need them most. 

Becoming an LFL steward, partnering with Little Free Library, and forming relationships with LFL stewards all over the country has been one of the best parts of our growth,” Gang says. “We meet incredible people who are kind, generous and passionate about literacy—just as Hindi was.”

Kristine Humphries, Ojai, California

Kristine Humphries of Ojai, California, has helped establish dozens of little libraries around the Ojai Valley, thanks to a grant from the Ojai Women’s Fund. Kristine worked in collaboration with the public library’s Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation and partnered with the school district, houses of worship, business owners and service organizations like the Humane Society to help the libraries thrive.

Humphries said the little libraries have greatly expanded book access in her community: “Many of our residents have limitations and unmet needs that affect their ability and willingness to use a traditional library system; this can include immigration status and language challenges, disabilities, and erratic employment hours. The Little Free Libraries are all open 24/7, 365.”

Kiara Bose Roy, Mumbai, India

Kiara Bose Roy started the first Little Free Library book-sharing box in Mumbai when she was just 12 years old as a way to share her love of reading and provide equitable book access.

“I live in the metropolitan city of Mumbai in India, where a lot of us are lucky enough to have access to an abundance of books and libraries. But a lot of children who live in my city don’t share that privilege,” Roy said. “I’m now almost 18, but I had always been very sensitive to the socioeconomic disparity that I saw in my community. It thought it unfair that those children who play on the same street as me couldn’t enjoy the lovely books I could. This was most definitely my biggest motivation in starting a Little Free Library.”

Roy continues to see her little library provide a valuable service in her city and has inspired more libraries to spring up.

Walter Mulbry, Takoma Park, Maryland

Walter Mulbry is a master builder, constructing 23 Little Free Library book-sharing boxes for his community. A member of Friends of the Takoma Park Maryland Library, he worked with his colleagues to purchase their first Little Free Library in 2014 then expanded the program with the libraries he built. A local mini-grant helps supply building materials; local artists paint the libraries; and the Friends book sale helps keep them stocked with reading material.

“Little libraries contribute toward our town’s sense of community. We are a very diverse community, but the love of reading is commonly shared,” Mulbry said. “Although our little libraries are located throughout the city, our focus is on locating them in public spaces near bus stops and large apartment buildings.”

Winners of the 2019 Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement

Click on the name beneath any image to learn more.

Giovanna Iorio, Rome, Italy

Giovanna Iorio established the first Little Free Library book exchange in Italy in 2012. Since then, she has inspired hundreds of Italians to establish Little Libraries by advising and supporting them. “I am always available, and I really love the fact that we are a community and all around Italy—we have hundreds of LFLs with different stories,” says Giovanna.

Rosalinda Sandoval Keeler, El Monte, California

Rosalinda Sandoval Keeler and the El Monte Coalition of Latino Professionals started Little Free Libraries to improve literacy opportunities for socioeconomically vulnerable kids. “Children as well as parents have expressed that books have now become part of their daily routine,” says Rosalinda. The Little Libraries have given Rosalinda an opportunity to partner with local public libraries, police officers, carpenters, and more. “It is neighbors helping neighbors at its finest,” she says.

“In this area there are many children who are socioeconomically vulnerable and live too far from the public library or simply do not have access to books after school hours. We wanted to help improve literacy opportunities and help level the playing field for our students.”

Malaz Khojali, Khartoum, Sudan

Malaz Khojali launched a Little Free Library network in Sudan in an effort to get books into the hands of local children, who do not have access to books through a public library or school library. “This gives me a new path to help my society, especially the coming generation,” she says.

Lisa Lopez-Williamson, El Paso, Texas

Herrera Elementary School librarian Lisa Lopez-Williamson brought Little Free Libraries to her borderland community of El Paso in 2010 to combat the title of “Least Literate City in the Nation.” Her first Little Free Library was charter #7—there are now charter numbers greater than #80,000! “[This has] opened my eyes to the good nature of people, locally, nationally, and internationally. The spirit of generosity has been awakened in all of us working with Little Free Libraries,” she says.

Mary Lindsey, Lake Worth, Florida

Mary Lindsey, president of the Lake Worth Little Free Libraries project, she has helped champion more than 100 Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in her area. She shares this award with the entire Lake Worth Little Free Libraries team. More than 350,000 books for children, tweens, teens, and grown-ups have passed from neighbor to neighbor in Lake Worth. “Little Free Libraries offered a way up and out of the downward spiral in which too many of our most vulnerable neighbors were trapped,” Mary says.

Evan Peterson, Spring Valley, Wisconsin

Evan Peterson started his Little Free Library, “Evan’s Port #1” four years ago, after visiting LFL headquarters to research a fourth-grade school project and has been an ambassador for Little Free Library’s mission of literacy and community ever since. Burdened with health issues from a young age, Evan used his Little Library to serve his community and connect with others, both at home and afar. When he was hospitalized for chemotherapy treatments last summer, he felt the generosity of the LFL community firsthand. “Out of the blue, cards, letters and packages from coast to coast started being delivered to my hospital room and my home. All their well wishes really meant to world to me and still do,” he says.

Chuck Prihoda, Medford, Wisconsin

Chuck Prihoda of the Taylor County Literacy Council is a Little Free Library builder extraordinaire. His Little Libraries have been built from canoes, or made to look like train stations, school buses, treasure chests, and more. “I did not want to build a box for books. I wanted to build something that would leave a positive impression in a child’s mind … I wanted that child to touch, and see, and associate books and reading with a positive feeling,” he says.  

Linda Prout, New Orleans, Louisiana

Linda Prout, a retired teacher, was one of the earliest Little Free Library ambassadors, using Little Free Libraries to build book access and a sense of community in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Since then, Linda has championed more than 200 book-sharing boxes, and she has partnered with everyone from schools to Boy Scouts to the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library, which has donated thousands of books to local Little Libraries. “Ripples from Little Free Libraries continue to spread throughout New Orleans,” she says.

Talena Lachelle Queen, Paterson, New Jersey

Fifth-grade English teacher and poet Talena Lachelle Queen is working to place a Little Free Library in each of her city’s 46 public parks. “I started the ‘Little Free Libraries in the Parks’ project in an attempt to increase literacy in my community and to make reading fun,” she says. “Statistics show that my inner city/urban community averages are significantly low.” Talena wants to change that with the help of her community.

Duane Yazzie, Window Rock, Arizona

Duane Yazzie established the Navajo Nation’s first official Little Free Library as a recipient of LFL’s Impact Library Program. The Little Library is the first in a network serving students and other residents in the area. “It is both empowering and rewarding and reminds me of the great power that lies within each of us and how that power is magnified when people come together in the spirit of goodness.”

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