A group of Prince William writers, joined by Manassas City Council member Ian T. Lovejoy (R), formally launched the city’s first Little Free Library in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 8.
Members of Write by the Rails, the Prince William County chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, constructed the tiny library. It will be mounted in front of the New School, which is slated to open this fall in the old post office building on Church Street in Old Town Manassas.
Organizers said they plan to set up 10 or more little libraries around Manassas and Prince William.
The Little Free Library differs from other public libraries in its diminutive size and the lack of rules governing its use by patrons. It looks like a miniature red schoolhouse and holds about 30 books.
Belinda Miller, a Manassas novelist who spearheaded the introduction of the little libraries to the city, compared it in size to “a large drawer in a kitchen.” People are encouraged to take a book and leave a book, she said. There are no checkout procedures and no fines for failure to return books.
Write by the Rails promotes literacy and tries to get people reading, and the Little Free Library is a way to do that, Miller said. Members of the club will serve as “stewards,” making sure the libraries are maintained properly and stocked with books, she said.
Little Free Library is a nonprofit group that started in 2009 as a free book exchange in Hudson, Wis., according to the organization’s Web site. There are about 30,000 Little Free Libraries around the world, spokeswoman Kristine Huson said.
“Little Free Libraries serve as outposts that are open 24/7, provide access to books in high needs areas and are an ideal way to circulate books that have been phased out of a public library’s circulation,” Huson said in an e-mail.
A small group of local writers, including Miller, Stacia and Nick Kelly, Dan Verner, and Victor Rook, built the libraries out of reclaimed materials, Miller said.
One of the structures is decorated in an “Alice in Wonderland” theme, with a wooden rabbit on each side.
“Those came from a bookshelf that Stacia Kelly’s grandmother had,” Miller said. “When we saw them, we knew they had to go on a library.” The group plans to install that little library outside Nokesville United Methodist Church, she said.
“My goal is to get five main ones up and functioning, and then let’s go from there [and] see how many more we can get established after that,” Miller said. The group also plans to set up little libraries at the Manassas Museum, Boys and Girls Club of Manassas, and senior centers in Manassas and Woodbridge, she said.
Alice Mergler, founder of the New School, said she was thrilled that Write by the Rails had chosen the school as the site for the city’s first Little Free Library.
“If you could listen to my heart, you’d hear it going double-time,” she said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I was a reading and writing teacher for 25 years. This is going to encourage the reading, the writing and the glory of coming back to school.”
Barnes is a freelance writer.