© Jack Mader 2012

Imagine a dollhouse, only it’s not a dollhouse. It’s a library. And instead of homey dollhouse wallpaper, the three walls are covered with three photographs of the interior of your neighborhood library. So opening the doors to your Little Free Library (LFL) is just like walking into your public library. That’s the LFL at  Homewood Studios in north Minneapolis.

This bit of innovative decorating should surprise no one who knows Homewood Studios. Everything at Homewood seems to turn into a community project. The art gallery is owned by George and Beverly Roberts, who are natural community builders and nice people (and I’m not just saying that because I married George’s brother). George is a poet and artist; Beverly is a huge arts supporter and domestic goddess. (As she likes to remind us when we come to dinner, “Of course, it’s good. I have a degree in home economics; I’m a professional.”)

In the case of Homewood’s LFL, neighbor and photographer Bill Cottman took images of the interior of the Sumner Community Library down the street and enlarged them. Jack Mader mounted them on foam board and placed them on the interior walls of the little library. The revitalization of the Sumner Library a few years ago was a massive project that involved many of the people in the community. The Tudor Revival building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was important to create something dedicated to literacy and learning in a neighborhood that makes it into the crime reports far too often.

© Jack Mader 2012

And now there is another place dedicated to literacy and learning. George watches from inside his art gallery and sees children and adults visiting the Homewood LFL every day. Like Sumner, it is a gathering place. This is all it takes to make a difference—just a few big-hearted people and a big idea housed in a small container.

In my novel, Book of Mercy, I wrote about a library created by a bunch of kids and a woman who could not read. Like the LFLs, it was fueled by the people and for the people. My characters were fighting censorship in their town. George, Beverly, and the Homewood neighborhood is fighting illiteracy, despair, and indifference. The rules are simple: bring a book and take a book. But I have a feeling that by having a place like Homewood Studios and the Little Free Library in their backyard, the people there take home more than a book.