These Baton Rouge book lovers hope there’s a little library wherever you go
The little wooden box only holds two dozen books, but it contains a dream come true for Angi Cinquemano.
A high school librarian by day, Cinquemano, 41, always wanted a little bookstore or a library all her own where she could connect lonely books with seeking readers.
Last year, a birthday gift made that possible.
Mounted on a wooden pole beneath an oak tree in front of her Broadmoor neighborhood home, Cinquemano’s Little Free Library provides a spot 24 hours a day where readers can find a book.
“I love having a library as part of the landscape of my yard and my life,” Cinquemano said. “I like driving up and seeing that my home is so personal. Kind of like the inside of my house, it’s an extension of me.”
She first heard of the idea on National Public Radio. Two Wisconsin men had started building small wooden libraries with small doors and glass windows and placing them in front yards.
Cinquemano loved the idea of her own “guerilla library,” and a carpenter friend built it, painted it green and cemented it into a hole in her front yard as a birthday surprise on Memorial Day weekend last year.
She and her 7-year-old son, Tavio, collected books and planned themes around the seasons and holidays. It took her six months to get the tiny library running according to her strict standards. Every Sunday she would swap out books with those she had collected.
“I guess being a librarian I may have over-prepared for it,” she said. “I may have been a little over-zealous.”
Then she noticed that borrowers would exchange books with their own, and Cinquemano relaxed a bit.
“I’ve let the community stock it more than I do now, which is also really fun, the choices they make,” she said. “There’s sort of a random nature to it.”
Across town a purple Little Free Library sits in the yard of Mark Clark’s Magnolia Woods home. He built it himself and made it a bit larger than Cinquemano’s as a way to “get rid of my books,” said Clark, a 47-year-old real estate investor. As a parent of young children, he buys books often, but never gets to read.
“Reading is like this big fantasy I have,” he said. “It makes me think I have more time than I really do. I go to bookstores and I buy books, but I can never read for more than just a little while with kids.”
More little libraries are planned by Circe Bridges, a 33-year-old former school teacher who works at Brew Ha-Ha coffee house on Jefferson Highway.
She and her husband started a campaign on Kickstarter.com to buy a little library from LittleFreeLibraries.org, where they run from $175 to $1,000. Contributors on the fundraising website gave $500 the first day, meeting their goal. So they kept raising money, hoping to place a few around town.
“That would be the dream, to have hundreds of them,” she said. “I don’t think we could manage hundreds of them. I will take charge of this one. I really see the possibility of us having 10. It’s exciting.”
Bridges, who lives a few streets away from Cinquemano in Broadmoor, wants all the children who ride their bikes around the neighborhood to have an easy place to grab a book.
A teacher, Bridges said she has learned that “once a child is hooked on reading, their writing, their speaking, their intelligence just skyrockets.”
On the first day of fall, Cinquemano examined how her readers have transformed the library — two shelves of books with a few more stacked horizontally.
“Young adult is half of it,” she said, looking at books written for teens. “There’s some spiritual. There’s some erotica right there.”
She still checks the library regularly and sometimes swaps out books for those she has been given or purchased. For last week’s Banned Book Week she added “Persepolis,” a graphic novel about the treatment of women in Iran.
“Are there at least three books I could recommend to a friend?” she said, listing her criteria. “Could a kid and a parent come and both find a book?”
When the Cinquemanos return home each day they check the library first thing. Tavio looks to see if anyone left something he may want to read.
“He loves when it is ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ or something like that,” Cinquemano said. “We shop out of it ourselves. It’s a perk.”