Take a book, leave a book
To a passerby, they may just look like large birdhouses, with their peaked roofs, shingles and wood siding. But these houses don't contain nests or feathers.
Instead, they're Little Free Libraries outfitted with rows of books and unlocked doors. People are encouraged to take a book or return one at their leisure.
The project was started by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks in Hudson, Wis. Their goal is to promote literacy, build a sense of community and further "green" recycling and building practices. Now the libraries can be found in more than 20 countries and 30 states -- including Red Wing residents Robert and Sandy Miller's front yard at 1876 Woodland Drive.
But when Robert first read about the Little Free Libraries in a magazine, he wasn't really interested in providing free books or encouraging literacy.
"It was more just something for me to build," Miller, an avid woodworker, said.
However, since completing the tiny book house and installing it earlier this month, Robert and Sandy say they're enjoying having it.
"It's fun to see the neighbors come," Robert said.
Each little library is a small, weather-proof box with a door on the front. Anyone can build and register a little library with the organization, but guidelines state that the libraries should be able to hold about 30 books and builders are asked to use recycled, salvaged and found materials instead of buying new. Other than that, builders are encouraged to be creative.
"They just say, 'Build one,'" Robert said, adding that he didn't really work off of a pattern while he was constructing his library.
"It turned out bigger than I anticipated," Robert said with a laugh. To accommodate the library's larger size and allow better access to the books inside, Robert added double doors to the front and painted them red.
"We matched the red doors to the red doors on our house," Sandy said. Cedar shingles will help keep the water out.
The Miller's library -- registered as number 660 -- is mounted on two posts in their front yard. They've stocked it with some books that they had lying around their house.
"Books that we have read, what are we going to do with them?" Robert said.
In addition, Sandy also purchased a few used children's books from thrift stores to help fill out the inventory. They've also been promised book donations from community members who have heard about their little library.
"We'll probably wind up with more books than we need," Robert said.
"We'll have to make another level for the house," Sandy agreed, laughing.
The Millers are hoping that their book house will be visited by children on their way to the park down the street or neighbors out for an evening walk.
"People will get excited about it," Robert said.
And the best part about the library, Robert said, is that there are no obligations once someone takes a book.
"It's theirs. They can keep it," he said.
To find out more about the Little Free Library project and to see where others are located, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.