‘Little libraries’ put books up for sharing

C.J. Brune stands next to a shelf stocked with books in her front yard that anyone can come by and borrow a book from, an endeavor inspired by the Little Free Library project.

Darcy Schild is a book person. And book people, she says, like to share.

She worked as a librarian at Schwegler School for 32 years, retiring this year. When she heard about the Little Free Library project on the radio in March, she knew she had to join.

“I like to share books, of course,” she says, “and I thought, ‘what a fun way to do it!'”

The project aims to create more than 2,150 free and community-based libraries by encouraging homeowners to set up small shelves in their own yards. Schild’s is in the 2000 block of Marvonne Road, a wooden box with a see-through door and about 20 books that sits on a wall in her driveway. Anyone can drop by and pick up a book and then return it whenever or even replace it with another book.

What keeps people on the honor system? Well, Schild says, “If something’s free, it’s hard to steal.”

C.J. Brune heard the same story and was similarly inspired. Her home near Kansas University on 17th Street is filled with books and her impressive, sun-filled library has been home to meetings of neighborhood groups and social causes for years. She says books are a family obsession — her son is a librarian — and empowerment through knowledge is a core tenet of her activism.

So she had her husband, Bill Getz, build and paint an old-schoolhouse-shaped enclosed shelf, perched on a post in her front yard, in May. Since then, she’s been totally changing out the “stock” of about 30 books from her personal collection every Sunday.

Brune says she sees around four or five people a day check out the little library — many more than Schild’s, but Brune’s is on a fairly well-traveled walking path to the university. Both say that interest in their little libraries has helped them get to know more of their neighbors.

“If you trust people and help the community, it’ll pay off,” Brune says. “I get more back than I put in.”

Brune is especially open to the trading concept, open to passersby taking books for themselves, just as long as they contribute another title.

“If you find one you like, next time bring another,” she says. “It’s just important people enjoy it — and that they read.”