Take a book, share a book: Fluvanna’s Little Free Libraries

By Ruthann Carr and Heather Michon, Correspondents

Jill Tartaglino first saw a Little Free Library about four years ago. “I thought: that is such a cool thing!” she says.

So when the holidays rolled around, she told her husband, “that’s what I want for Christmas.”

Tom Tartaglino and their son, Travis, built a small enclosure out of scrap wood with installed two shelves and a glass door. They constructed a stand and placed it near their home on Buck Island Road, off Riverside Drive at Lake Monticello. Jill stocked it with books.

“I was worried at first that nobody would come,” she admits.

But people did find it, and over the past three years, it’s become a quiet fixture in the neighborhood.

Little Free Libraries are based on the “take a book, leave a book” exchange you might see in any urban coffee house or other public space.

The movement began in Wisconsin in 2009, when a man named Todd Bol built a model one-room schoolhouse in honor of his mother. He put it at the end of his driveway and filled it with books. People loved the tiny “Esther Bol Memorial Library,” and it soon evolved into a non-profit effort to make books available to all.

Today, there are over 75,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 85 countries. Four of them are here in Fluvanna County.

Two have been installed by the Rotary Club of Fluvanna County: one near St. Joseph’s Church on Cameron Street in Columbia, another near Sal’s Restaurant on Route 15 in Fork Union.

Rudy Garcia, past president of the chapter, says the grant-funded project was part of the Rotary Club’s commitment to providing opportunities for local youth.

“The club decided on the locations based on where we knew there to be a need for access to books for kids who didn’t have easy access to the public library,” he said.

The newest addition to Fluvanna’s Little Free Library family is the “Fort Thomas Library at Graythom Farm” on Main Street in Palmyra.

Haden Parrish, an advisor for the Virginia College Advising Corps and grandson of E.W. Thomas, started building the little library with his father last October, after moving to Graythom Farm.

E.W. Thomas once played on the hill that later became Graythom Farm, dubbing it “Fort Thomas,” a vantage point where “he and his pals could overlook Palmyra and protect it from the imaginary invading Nazis,” Parish explained on Facebook. An avid reader, E.W. developed a habit of writing “Fort Thomas” in each book added to his sizable personal library.

Although his grandfather died before he was born, Parrish says E.W.’s love of reading helped inspire his own, and it felt “only right to name the library after my grandfather’s childhood dreams.”

Inside the library is a guest book. “I’d love for all who visit the library to write something in it — either what books they’re donating, what their favorite books are, simply sign their name, or even draw a picture!” he says. “I’m hoping to include a recipe exchange box, a bookmark trading spot, or maybe a few other things to make it a true community effort.”

Jill Tartaglino has a similar book in her Little Library. Much of what happens in the little nook at the top of her driveway is silent. Books come and books go. But every once in a while, someone will leave a note.

Just a few weeks ago, a woman named Shelley wrote: “Stumbled across this wonderful library! Thank you — perfect read for the beach!” She punctuated her signature with a big smiley face.

Building your own Little Free Library
Interested in starting your own Little Free Library? There’s always room for more. The city of Lake Worth, Florida (population 30,000) has 80, with another 20 or more on the horizon.

Becoming a steward (Little Free Library-speak for caretaker) is pretty straightforward.

Depending on your comfort level with power tools, you can build your own, have someone build one for you, buy a pre-made structure or kit from from Little Free Library. You place it in an accessible spot, register it with Little Free Library, stock it with some books, and tell all your friends and neighbors. For more info, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/start

The Fluvanna Review has surplus newspaper boxes that can be turned into little free libraries.

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