Little Free Libraries Bring Literacy, Unity to Residents

Vanessa Calderon Falone and her children John and Jennifer Falone steward this Little Free Library just a few blocks from Lone Hill Park in San Dimas. Photo: Isabel Ebiner

By Amanda Lee

Vanessa Calderon Falone and her family steward a unique fixture in San Dimas — a red wooden children’s washer and dryer play set that can be found on West Juanita Avenue near Lone Hill Park.

The fixture, despite its appearance, was not installed to give passing residents a place to do tiny loads of laundry. It is actually a library — more specifically,  a Little Free Library that is part of an established nonprofit organization founded in 2012.

The city of San Dimas has nine registered Little Free Libraries and several more that are unregistered. 

Little Free Library had humble beginnings in 2009 when Todd H. Bol built his  first Little Free Library in Hudson, Wisconsin. Today there are more than 100,000 Little Free Libraries registered around the world. 

Their website states that “Little Free Library is a nonprofit that builds community, inspires readers, and expands book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led little libraries.”

John and Jennifer Falone reach for books in their family’s Little Free Library. The library holds books for audiences of all ages. Photo: Isabel Ebiner

People build Little Free Libraries for a variety of reasons. Falone shared how it is just part of her mission to help others in any way she can. 

While Falone was initially worried people would not use the library, she has been pleasantly surprised with what seems to be a natural draw within her community. 

“There’s a lot of community activity where I’m at, which is just why my box took off,” Falone said.

On the other side of the city, another free community library can be found within the La Cuesta Encantada community.  

This community library in the La Cuesta Encantada community is maintained by Diana Veloz and others in the neighborhood. Photo Courtesy: Diana Veloz

Diana Veloz, along with other community members, helps maintain this free community library. The La Cuesta Encantada community board opted not to register with the Little Free Library database. 

“I think the advantage of [registering] is bringing more people to your library, but our library is full all the time. There’s a constant change, so I guess we didn’t need that,” Veloz said.

Veloz said she thinks the library provides a way for community members to interact over a shared interest and have a reason to leave their homes. 

During the pandemic, many new book deserts emerged as bookstores and public libraries closed or limited their offerings. 

According to the Little Free Library website, “by providing books all year ’round, [Little Free Libraries] can mitigate the ‘summer slide’ where kids’ reading skills slip.” Along with 24/7 access allowing community members to visit on their own schedule, free community libraries can be viewed as literacy support for all.

“It’s inspiring to see how people come together … It’s giving humanity a chance to show a better side of them,” Veloz said. “When you see that people come and they clean out the library for you, or they are maintaining it, it’s a really good feeling.”

Little Free Library boxes sell online for $150 or more. You can also construct your own and register it online for a one-time fee of $40. 

Your Little Free Library will be issued a unique charter number and placed on their worldwide map. Resources are also provided for those assigned as a steward.

The City of San Dimas currently does not require a permit for installing a Little Free Library. 

Any questions regarding building limitations for a Little Free Library on your residence can be directed to the San Dimas Community Development Department by visiting the planning desk at city hall or calling 909-394-6250.

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