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Cape Cod condo mini library fosters resident ties

By Robert Gold
Cape Cod Times / April 15, 2012
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YARMOUTH, Mass.—Jan Hively opened the swinging door and ran her finger along the row of books.

The Mill Pond Village woman knew most of the titles. She had placed the majority of the books in the "Little Free Library," a well-crafted contraption made from Wisconsin cranberry crates.

But her hand stopped at a new title, something donated by another condo resident.

"Oooh, a poetry book," Hively said, flipping the book over with interest.

Hively, a resident of the Mill Pond Village condo community, recently received the mini-library from two friends in Wisconsin, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. The Midwestern duo started a nonprofit organization in 2010 called Little Free Library, which helps people around the world set up tiny libraries, fostering a love of books, creativity and neighborhood, Bol said.

"The neighborhood ends up defining what's in there," he said about these mini-libraries.

This library has no fines or hours of operation. Residents are encouraged to write notes in the books, return them when they want and make their own donations.

Hively, who met Bol a few years ago while she was running a nonprofit agency in Minneapolis that helped people transition into new jobs, poked through the West Yarmouth mini-library recently.

The longtime business and vocational consultant moved to the condo neighborhood, with about 60 homes and a mix of ages, two years ago. She hopes the addition of the mini-library will draw people together.

"It's so hard for people in a place like this to get to know each other," she said.

Hively donated the first batch of books to the box. She bought some books from the South Yarmouth Library and added some from her own collection.

The mini-library, installed by condo management, is roughly 2 feet wide and a foot-and-a-half high.

Attached to a metal pole, the box is about 3 feet off the ground near a long line of mailboxes.

From afar, it could be confused for a birdhouse or an artisan's self-made mailbox.

Children's books about seals and whales are mixed with nonfiction books on journal writing and novels such as "Gardenias" by Faith Sullivan, and a local staple, Richard Russo's "That Old Cape Magic." Hively started the library with 20 books.

On one recent day, 17 were in stock.

Bol built the roughly 20-pound contraption last year. He attached two cranberry boxes, and added a swinging door with old barn wood and plastic-glass windows. When Hively mentioned she was interested in one for the Cape, he gave it to her.

So far, about 800 little libraries are installed worldwide, he said.

The West Yarmouth location is the first that Bol and Brooks know of in Massachusetts. A map on their website, http://www.littlefreelibrary.org, shows the known locations and often includes photographs.

Most people build the mini-libraries on their own, Bol said, using items such as old canoes, microwaves and phone booths.

Hively said in the first couple of weeks, a handful of books had been in circulation. She also added information about the new condo association, with the request that people sign for it and return it within a week.

Although it's early, Hively expressed hope it will bring the neighborhood together and inspire other areas to create their own little libraries.

"I think the future of the world depends on people getting together where they are at and making the most of what they've got," she said.

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