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Little Free Library gaining attention locally

Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 11:06 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 18, 2014 11:32 a.m. CDT
Debbie Hulett Angelo of Creston reads a story about the Tooth Fairy to her four-year-old granddaughter Haylee Ellis. Ellis, also of Creston, picked out the book at Barb Coenen's Little Free Library — a free book exchange — 803 E. Howard St.
Haylee Ellis, 4, of Creston reaches into the Florence Montag Allen Memorial Little Free Library for a free book. The book exchange, 803 E. Howard St., holds books for all age groups.

Little Free Library, a grassroots movement promoting literacy and a sense of community, is gaining attention in Creston.

With at least three locations throughout the area, the “take a book, return a book” exchange boxes serve as a gathering place where neighbors and friends can share their favorite literature — for free.

This spring, Barb Coenen of Creston installed a Little Free Library on her front lawn in memorial of her mother, Florence Montag Allen, who died in March.

“She loved to read,” Coenen said.

Coenen said one of her earliest memories of her mother are of her mother reading to her and her 11 siblings.

“She’d read to us, or we’d see her sitting and reading at night,” Coenen said. “We would go to the library every week when we lived out on the farm. There were just always books (around).”

Up until Allen’s death, she and her daughter continued to trade books back and forth with the other. Inspired by her mother raising 12 readers, Coenen wants to share the gift of reading with the community.

Before installing the bright red Florence Montag Allen Memorial Little Free Library on her lawn, Coenen built one last year and placed it in her alley way.

“I have always wanted to have a Little Free Library,” Coenen said.

The Florence Montag Allen Memorial Little Free Library features “a good mix of everything.” Coenen said she has stocked it with books for infants up to adults.

Sit and stay awhile

In Cromwell, former educators John and Mary Lou Judd were inspired to build their own Little Free Library.

“We saw this story on T.V. and it inspired John to build one,” Mary Lou Judd said.

Mary Lou said she has always wanted a library in Cromwell.

“We think this is a really neat idea,” said Mary Lou.

Mary Lou said the response to her project has been positive. She said she has not advertised the Little Free Library on her lawn and enjoys watching people discover it.

“It’s more of a curiosity,” Mary Lou said.

About Little Free Library

In 2009 Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., built a miniature one-room schoolhouse in memory of his mother, a former school teacher who loved to read. Bol placed the schoolhouse filled with books in his yard adorned with the words “free books.”

Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin partnered with Bol to grow Bol’s idea to what it is today.

The pair were inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries during the 19th to 20th centuries and Lutie Stearns, a librarian who travelled by covered wagon and brought books to nearly 1,400 locations in Wisconsin.

According to Little Free Library, in its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. They point out on their website, these aren’t any books, Little Free Library book exchanges are carefully curated collections and the library itself is a piece of neighborhood art.


Little Free Libraries can be found at the following locations:

• The Florence Allen Montag Memorial Little Free Library, 803 E. Howard St.

• The Judd’s Little Free Library, 1302 Monroe Ave., Cromwell.

• Creston Arts and After Thoughts Little Free Library, northwest corner of Lincoln School lawn as of August. Currently at Adams Street Espresso.

To learn how you can build or purchase your own free book exchange and register it on Little Free Library’s worldwide online map, visit

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