Take a book, leave a book.
That’s the honor-system approach behind the Little Free Library movement that has blanketed the United States, galloped across international borders and now climbed up state Route 165 to rather-isolated Wilkeson.
Due to the right-to-read vision of local author Peg Kehret, the small town now has a Little Free Library to call its own. A small crowd gathered the evening of June 25 to learn a bit of the history behind the project and watch Kehret ceremonially snip a yellow ribbon encircling the bookcase.
The concept is as simple as it is community-friendly: wooden containers, usually about the size of a dollhouse, are mounted and stocked; anyone can take a book. The hope is readers eventually will return the book or replace it with another title. No library cards are needed, no questions are asked and there’s no such thing as a late fee. Some Little Free Libraries are placed on private property for a select neighborhood and others – as in Wilkeson’s case – are in public places where they’re available to all.
Wilkeson’s Little Free Library is near the entry door, in front of the post office.
Kehret had never heard of the grassroots library movement until visiting friends in Renton and observing the activity around a small, nearby kiosk. She made a few inquiries and the idea for Wilkeson took flight. She pitched the idea to city government early this year and found great support for the cause; the same was true when she approached the owner of the land where the post office sits.
To get the wooden container built, Kehret didn’t have to look far; it was designed and assembled by Kevin Konen of Bellevue, who happens to be married to Kehret’s daughter Anne. The wood construction is a perfect fit for Wilkeson, and an asphalt roof will protect books from the elements.
It will hold about 60 books, with the inventory monitored by Kehret. The Little Free Library campaign allows for a good deal of local flexibility, but insists that someone step forward to keep tabs on the collection, culling anything that might be off-color or otherwise inappropriate.
Wilkeson is part of the Little Free Library boom. The effort, which started with a single bookcase in a small Wisconsin town, spread like wildfire. Within a couple of years, there were between 5,000 and 6,000 Little Free Libraries in the world, found in close to 40 countries. It was estimated that at least 1.65 million books had been donated and borrowed between January 2010 and mid-2012.
Kehret is a perfect fit for the make-books-available movement. She is a prolific author of books for young readers and has been honored across the country for her efforts. She has received both the PEN Center Award in Children’s Literature and the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A volunteer for animal welfare causes, she includes animals in most of her books and also has been recognized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Working from her log cabin on a 10-acre parcel outside Wilkeson, she has another book in the works. It will be published next year and will add to her repertoire of dozens of titles.
Newcomers may not remembers the days when Wilkeson boasted a library of its own. The Pierce County Library System maintained a branch in the small town until – citing budget difficulties – it closed the doors for good on Feb. 22, 2003.