For the love of reading: More Little Free Libraries popping up in Bluffton

eshaw@islandpacket.comJanuary 22, 2014 

The town of Bluffton has gotten several new libraries recently.

These libraries, which are not much bigger than a bread box, don't have lines to wait in or fines for late returns.

In fact, the books don't have to be returned at all.

That's the philosophy behind Little Free Libraries, a network that promotes taking a book and leaving a book. The tiny book hutches are part of a worldwide movement encouraging literacy through free book exchanges.

Al Templeton, who lives near Old Town Bluffton, built his Little Free Library last fall after reading an article about it. He went to the organization's website to learn more and decided to build his own out of scrap wood. He erected it in his front yard and stocked it with a handful of novels.

As soon as he did, Templeton said, it added a "shock and awe" factor to his yard, where people would stop and ask him what it was.

It caught the eye of his neighbor Stephanie Cremonte, who walked by the library half a dozen times before she asked Templeton about it.

Then he built one for her.

Around the corner, Cremonte's library sits at the end of her driveway atop an ivy-covered fence. Her library, which is not registered with the official organization, is blue with a black roof, housing titles like "The Secret Life of Bees," "Chicken Soup for the Teenaged Soul" and "Twilight."

But none of them stay there long. The turnover has been so frequent it's difficult to keep track of which books come and go, Cremonte said.

"It's been packed full and down to five books," she said. "I don't think any of our original books are in there."

The Free Little Library movement began in 2009 in Hudson, Wis., and the number of book repositories is growing across the state, country and world. There are 20 registered Free Little Libraries in South Carolina, thousands in the U.S., 9 in Australia, 3 in Africa and even one in Iceland.

According to the organization's website, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world is estimated to be between 10,000 and 12,000 as of January 2014.

The Little Free Library at Bluffton Elementary school has been very successful since it was built last spring, according to Victoria Moody, the school's media specialist.

"It's doing great," she said. "It's really interesting to see what shows up."

Moody said the Little Free Library supplements the main school library because it is more easily accessible and always open.

"And it's completely free choice for the students. There's no pressure to pick a certain type of book," she said. "It's a great way to get books in those kids' hands."

At Templeton's little library, the children's books were going so fast that he added a second container beneath the original library just for youth books. Now, the faces of Elmo, Big Bird and Clifford peek out of the special "annex."

Templeton said the biggest satisfaction he gets from his library is seeing kids come and get books, when their excitement is visible as they hug their selections to their chests and say things like, "Can I really have it?"

"I like to think that that book could make a difference with them," he said.

Ideally, Templeton would like to see four or five more Little Free Libraries in the Bluffton area, enough so that neighbors could go on a literary walking tour. It's something that would only add to Bluffton's charm, he said.

"I wish more people would do it," he said. "People will stop and take pictures all the time and say, 'This is the cool neighborhood I live in.'"

Follow Erin Shaw at Twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.

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