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The Little Free Library that could

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For seven years, Phyllis Bell has lovingly tended to the Little Free Library that stands in the front yard of her Haymount home. But she figured COVID-19 would put at least a temporary end to the neighborly initiative, so she collected all the books, leaving the cute little wooden box that housed the books empty.

But then something surprising happened: Friends and strangers filled the box with books again.

“They wouldn’t let it go empty,” Bell said.

Bell, who once taught architecture at Fayetteville Technical Community College, has always been an avid reader. She learned about Little Free Libraries when her daughter came across one in San Francisco.

Little Free Library began in 2009 when a Wisconsin man mounted a wooden container designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse on a post on his lawn and filled it with books as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and school teacher and had recently died.

It has grown into an international nonprofit with an estimated 60,000 locations in 80 countries. Bell, who lives just around the corner from Alma Easom Elementary School, figured her Little Free Library would prove useful to the schoolchildren and their parents who pass by on the way to school.

The organization’s website offers plans and ideas on getting started. The website also offers a map of locations, including 15 in Fayetteville. Bell’s was one of the first, and is certainly one of the prettiest. She found a little stained glass window in an antiques store and had a carpenter install it.

These days, to keep readers as safe as possible, Bell wipes down the books and stocks the box with hand sanitizer. And thanks to those who didn’t let her library stay empty, the reading goes on.


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