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Do-It-Yourself Library Brings Neighborhood Together

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Dina Moreno of Seattle describes how her family built a "Little Free Library," one of thousands of miniature lending spots popping up around the country. The library, the size of a doll house, has helped bring the neighborhood together.


On the other hand, and we say that a lot in the news business, libraries with books on shelves are still with us, maybe closer than you think.

DINA MORENO: I can see the library from my kitchen window, just up. It's sort of out of the way, but I can just see it and I see people constantly going through there.

SIMON: That's Dina Moreno of Seattle a year ago. Her husband and father-in-law built a tiny library in their front yard. No pink plastic flamingos available? She's read about a program called Little Free Library which helps people build their own. The family went online, they found instructions, they got out some tools and opened shop.

MORENO: Our library is probably two feet wide and, you know, maybe two and a half, three feet tall. It's got a single door on the front and just an little pitched roof with shingles on it, and the door's got Plexiglas in the front so you can see the books through it.

SIMON: Seattle has a famously misty climate, but after a full year, Dina Moreno says the books have stayed dry, though they don't stay long on the shelves. The small community library sits in a corner of her lawn on a post. Ms. Moreno and her two children have kept it stocked with books. It can hold about 25. There are no library cards; hence, no late fees. Anyone is free to browse and borrow a book. They can also leave one, and they do. It may not have a huge collection, ranging from the latest popular potboilers to fat, serious scholarly tomes.

There are no author book signings, cafe, gift shop or other features that modern libraries say they need to put readers into seats. Despite the shingled roof and colorful paint job, Dina Moreno's library is not quite the architectural treasure of the central libraries in Boston, New York or Seattle. But that's not the point.

MORENO: It's more fun than anything else. Like, we'll say, on any average day, we'll say someone go check the library and one of us in the family will go out there and put some books in there or rearrange them or something, and we've met neighbors, you know, I don't think, we've lived here for ten, more than ten years, and some people I had not met and turns out they just live a few doors away. And my husband always says when you move into a new neighborhood, the first thing you should do is put a little library up.

SIMON: By the way, Dina Moreno's library's got no Wi-Fi.


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