Public libraries are the backbone of any great community as they serve as not just a repository for ideas, but also a vibrant space for gathering, reflection, and social services. Free boxes and other initiatives with a DIY spirit build upon these principles, and the popularity of organizations like the Little Free Library system means that you can find a lot of free reading material in public boxes all over Chicago. While “Little Free Library” itself is a specific term referring to the national registered nonprofit organization of the same name, anyone who wants to do this can just get a receptacle like a cardboard box or old storage tub, put reading material you want to give away inside, place the receptacle in a publicly accessible space, and make some signage for it so people know that they can drop stuff off or take stuff.
If you want some guidance on making a cute Pottery Barn Kids-style box that would not look out of place in a Thomas Kinkade gated community, there are building plans on the Little Free Library website. Book boxes live precariously in public, because, well, the public. But as of this writing you can find some well-loved community outdoor libraries in neighborhoods including Back of the Yards (outside of the Back of the Yards Coffeehouse at 2059 W. 47th), Beverly (a box at 103rd and Longwood near the Givens Irish Castle), Pilsen (one on a fence near 18th and Newberry), and Bucktown (Bucktown Book Swap keeps a few going, including one at Lyndale and Oakley). The Reader itself was pleased to donate some of our older newspaper dispensers to be used as a children’s books-
focused library at Unity Park in Logan Square. A free unveiling event will be held on Saturday, June 1 at the park, 2636 N. Kimball. Families are encouraged to come at 10:30 AM to hear about the project, listen to reading-themed songs, and stick around for storytime. v