IN 2009, Todd Bol built a small model of a one-room schoolhouse, installed it in the front yard of his home in Hudson, Wisconsin, and filled it with books, free for the taking. Last year, 150,000 of these mini-libraries were registered worldwide, and each of them has a “librarian” behind the scenes with their own ideas for the little literary space.
Center Street libraries
When Jennifer Potts noticed kids sitting outside her stylist training school at night – making use of the free wi-fi – it gave her an idea to set up Little Free Libraries in the neighborhood. “At first, we only wanted to have a couple,” says Potts. “But community members came out and wanted to help. Other businesses wanted to get the libraries, too. It became a bigger thing.” Teachers, carpenters and students all stepped up to help, and The Greater Milwaukee Foundation kicked in $3,500. Now Potts manages five Little Free Libraries for BID #39. Center Street between 37th and 51st streets
Happy Everything Book House
Former kindergarten teacher Sarah Dosmann’s library sits a little lower to the ground and features mostly children’s books. The yellow house was a Christmas gift from her father, a former Milwaukee Public Schools principal. It reminds her of the days when she used to read to her students, using different voices for each of the characters. “Whatever sets a good foundation and appreciation for reading,” Dosmann says. “Reading and comprehension open the door to every other interest.” 1603 E. Lafayette Pl.
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Heck on Weil
Margot Nielsen and her friend Mark Peterson created “Heck on Weil” to resemble a Riverwest house, the name playing off its beastly address. The first floor features a bookcase, a roaring fireplace and a portrait of the creator above the mantelpiece. The upper floor sports a working closet where Nielsen hides treats for visitors. The house is complete with a glow-in-the-dark alien dance party in the attic. 2666 N. Weil St.
Snoopy’s Tales ii
Jim Salinsky has had a hand in building several little libraries across Milwaukee’s East Side. Four years ago, Salinsky and his family moved to Shorewood, where he noticed a lot of dogs, giving him an idea for a new theme: “Snoopy’s Tales.” He designed the box complete with the beloved Peanuts character and some furniture. After the first incarnation was hit by a falling tree, he rebuilt the library, christening it Snoopy’s Tales II. 3518 N. Frederick Ave.
Little Free Diverse Library MKE
It was summer 2020 – the early days of COVID-19 and police brutality protests – when longtime friends Kristen Tym and Tom Runnells felt inspired to build a “Little Free Diverse Library” in their small neighborhood of Story Hill. The books span genres from biographies of Muhammad Ali to children’s Halloween stories to bestsellers like Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age. “It’s important to make a purposeful effort to expand the media we consume,” says Tym. 404 N. 50th St.