Your friend has just passed on after a long battle with cancer. She was often called the Mother Teresa of your town. 1,500 people attended her memorial service. How would you commemorate such an extraordinary person?
Susan Reep decided to build not just one, but a network of Little Free Libraries throughout Bakersfield, CA to commemorate the life of her friend, Wendy Wayne. Just over a year later, there are over 15 Little Libraries in Bakersfield with several more on the way. The whole town is energized and actively using what Susan named Wendy’s Words Libraries. How did she do it? How can you do the same?
LFL: Your website, www.wendyswordslibraries.org, tells the story of Wendy Wayne. Who was Wendy, and why did she inspire you to create the Wendy’s Words Libraries project?
Susan: In the simplest and most personal terms, Wendy was my best friend for 30 years. I think a good way to illustrate who Wendy was is to say this: after she died, I was interviewed many times as Wendy’s best friend. I would correct the interviewer right away. Wendy was my best friend. I would never presume I was her best friend because if you were in a room of 1,000 people (and there were 1,500 at her memorial), and you asked Wendy’s best friend to stand up, all 1,000 would have stood up. That is how she made people feel. After Wendy died, stories started to emerge and even her husband was dazed because he had no idea of all the kindnesses Wendy had done for other people. Now people want to name things after Wendy. She would say don’t bother, just go hug someone. So, how does this figure into Wendy’s Words Libraries? I had an article I cut out of the L.A. Times about Little Free Libraries. I remembered it and thought, a book isn’t enough. I’ll leave a library. But Wendy gets inside of you and I realized a library isn’t enough; I have to leave lots of libraries around. And then I realized that’s not enough either, I have to spread Wendy’s words of wisdom taken from her speeches and leave those also.
LFL: For others who may want to launch a community-wide Little Free Library project, what would you consider the essential steps to being successful?
Susan: This is a hard question. I think the most essential step to running a successful project is launching it correctly and this would be what I would suggest before you go public:
- Have a clear mission statement.
- Identify your structure – will you be a non-profit or a general community-based organization?
- Reserve some domain names.
- Decide how you want people to contact you – by phone? Email? What will you put on your website and printed information?
- Make a website. When you start talking to people that are interested in having a library, you need something to refer them to. Ours is www.wendyswordslibraries.org and we refer people to www.littlefreelibrary.org with their permission.
- Write up some printed materials – a one-sheet with basic information and so on.
- Put up your own Library.
- Call a press conference at the site of the first Library. Have a press kit to give to the media. Announce that you’ll be holding a book drive to stock the Libraries. We had books dropped off at a local television station and they promoted it on air.
- Promote like crazy on Facebook, Twitter, and consider a Facebook page – but only if you keep it current.
- You might need a marketing plan – should you be speaking to service clubs? Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. Enlisting schools to do book drives? A local high school chapter of the National English Honor Society did a marvelous book drive for us.
- Finally, what will you do when new Libraries are installed? I give each Library a starter supply of books, Wendy’s Words bookplates and a Wendy’s Words Library sign (I also encourage people to Make It Official through littlefreelibrary.org). I am running low on books now and am going to be making a massive Facebook plea for children’s books, which seem to be what people want around here.
*Note from LFL: You don’t need to follow every piece of advice above. These are great tips but having your own website or non-profit designation may not be necessary. Maybe you just have a Facebook page or a blog or give people your own email address. Use these tips as a guide, not a step-by-step manual.
We just got an update from Susan a few days ago, and there are now 16 Wendy’s Words Libraries with 6-8 more on the way. And there was another exciting development: one of the Libraries in Bakersfield has been turned into a Geocache! We will be posting more on this topic in the future, but you can learn more right away at www.geocaching.com