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Little Free Libraries sprouting in Forest Grove


NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - The caretaker of this Little Free Library near 32nd Place and Larrabee Street is not only stocked with books, but with book markers, pencils, stickers and other prizes as well. With the area hit hard by rain, flooding, snow and ice, it’s the perfect time to stay indoors and cozy up with a good read. And lucky for Forest Grove book lovers, three residents in different parts of town each recently started a Little Free Library, bringing literary cheer to their neighbors.

The Little Free Library project began in Wisconsin in 2009 and encourages people to set up mini-bookcases outside their homes and businesses, offering free books to the public to keep or return. Patrons can pick out a free read and leave any books they want to share with the community.

Forest Grove has three mini-libraries registered with the Little Free Library organization and a few more unofficial ones sprinkled about town.

Lisa Browning Maisel set up the Norse Woods Little Free Library in the summer of 2015 outside her home near the intersection of 32nd Place and Larrabee Street. She keeps the shelves stocked — adult books on top, children’s on the bottom — with seasonal books, bookmarkers, pencils, stickers and more.

She has about 150 books total that she’s picked up at garage- and used-book sales and has been rotating them through for summer, banned-books week, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I truly believe that reading is not only a gateway to the furthering of one’s education, but a way to broaden horizons, attain empathy and travel beyond our own narrow viewpoint and sphere of being,” Maisel said.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Elizabeth Crains husband built her Little Free Library and gave it to her last Mothers Day.

This summer, after her husband’s grandfather built her library box, she opened it to the public in an effort to share her passion for reading with others.

“I have been a voracious reader since age 3, and am only saddened by my own mortality in the context of how few books it allows me to read over the course of a lifetime,” Maisel said. “If I can instill just a tiny fraction of the peace and joy that reading has brought to me, into someone else’s life — mission accomplished.”

Like Maisel, Forest Grove City Library employee Elizabeth Crain started her own Little Free Library in the 1900 block of 17th Avenue last summer. A homemade Mother’s Day gift from her husband, the little library helps Crain connect the right book with the right person — both kids and adults — her favorite part of working at the city library. She keeps the shelves well stocked with a wide variety of books and people leave her Love Rocks and flowers in thanks. Patrons also leave a lot of books for the supply — everything from popular fiction to a book on interior design. One person routinely donates newly released hardcovers, Crain said. NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - The Dehner family doesnt just give away books in its Little Free Library--it gets new ones donated by strangers.

Steve Dehner and his family put up a little free library in the 1200 block of Douglas Street in November after spotting them while he walked around Portland. They dedicated the library to their friend and neighbor, Mick Werve, who passed away suddenly right after they erected the book box.

The Dehners enjoy watching patrons pick up free reading material, from mothers with children to elderly couples. In return, they’ve received nearly every kind of book donation, from young adult fiction to books on real estate blogging and fly tying.

“The sharing and exchanging books in the neighborhood builds a sense of community and goodwill,” Dehner said. “A Little Free Library fosters the feeling that we are connected by what we read and enjoy in common.”

Those who want to build their own free library — or to register or find or help an already existing one — can get more information at littlefreelibrary.org.