Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote my first ever LPL Blog about a selection of the Little Free Libraries in Lawrence and the impassioned bibliophiles behind them. The response was overwhelming and two things became abundantly clear: 1. This town is absolutely bonkers for cute little homes for books to share, and 2. Because of this, Lawrence is chock full of ‘em.
In the weeks and months following the publication of that post, I received countless inquiries about a comprehensive list of Lawrence library boxes. I was able to direct folks to the Little Free Library website, which keeps a running tally of chartered LFLs all over the country, but I knew that the ones mapped there barely scratched the surface of what this town really has to offer. I knew that the majority of our boxes are uncharted due to lack of affiliation with the Little Free Library Foundation. These rogues, if you will, these independent purveyors of literacy, are no less charming and no less sought.
Enter Scott Reed, a 20 year resident of Lawrence, Master of Library Science degree holder, and intrepid scooter adventurer. Scott recently took it upon himself to map as many Lawrence library boxes as he could, which turned out to be around 80 (EIGHTY), which I reckon is very nearly all of them.
Working from home during the pandemic, Scott purchased a Vespa that he enjoys taking for rides on his lunch breaks and weekend afternoons. Beginning in June in Sunset Hills, Scott originally set out to map the library boxes in and around his neighborhood. “I started the project only thinking about the handful of boxes nearby. The project has naturally expanded to encompass all of Lawrence, from as far-flung as West of Wakarusa, North Lawrence, a box out in a neighborhood by the Southwest Trafficway, and out East of Memorial Park Cemetery.” Hunting down library boxes gave him a defined destination, as well as a way to take satisfying jaunts to hit up several different boxes in one trip.
He had some help along the way. When it became clear that his project was becoming something bigger, he called on community members through social media, including Facebook and Reddit, to share their neighborhood library boxes with him. A friend pointed him in the direction of an established but incomplete map started by another Lawrencian and little library lover, Molly Easley. Her map and Scott's neighborhood map provided an excellent jumping off point, and combined with input from folks all over the city, this comprehensive map of Lawrence Little Libraries was realized.
Scott also stumbled upon many a library box during his intentional scooter searches, including my own in Indian Hills. "I love the hunt of it all. The maps from which I drew some information had nearly no boxes in my close area, but I found nearly a dozen. I still drive up and down streets where I think boxes could be, and on occasion I do find some 'in the wild'. Just this week I drove by the Just Food offices and I noticed that they have a box by their main door. Two weeks ago I was following up on a lead for the box on East Glen, and I found the box on Cadet. It is the little moments of 'discovery' that I really enjoy."
The journey has been a big part of the allure, but the destination has brought Scott the simple joys of getting out, seeing the boxes, and browsing through them. "I am a more-frequent visitor of the boxes that are nearby, and I am surprised at how frequently the contents of each change. I have also borrowed a stack of books from libraries around town that are part of my ongoing summer reading list. In addition, my wife and I are members of the Friends of the Library with LPL, and since donations were closed for most of the summer, I have been taking some of our books that would go to Friends donations to library boxes around town to get them into community circulation."
And now, thanks to Scott's diligence and sharing is caring mentality, any interested Lawrence citizens can go on escapades of their own to find these library boxes. He has also helpfully color coded the map to specify which are full of books and which are designated as community pantries. "With a map and a defined plan, there is an adventure that someone can take to seek out all of these boxes. I have visited each of them personally, and with the map more of the community can get out and see them."
The Google Map of Lawrence Library Boxes can be found here. Many, many thanks and a standing ovation to Scott for creating and sharing this map with the people of Lawrence. He plans to keep the map maintained, adding new little library boxes as they pop up, and welcomes you to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you build or acquire a new library box.
This map is a perfect gift for a community full of givers, book enthusiasts, and folks who have proven time and time again that they have more than enough love to go around to the big library and all 80+ of the little ones.
A few reminders of library box etiquette and COVID best practices: 1. Library boxes are for giving as well as taking. Library curators rely on "patrons" and the honor system of borrowing to keep their libraries well stocked with something for everyone. 2. Take hand sanitizer with you to apply both before and after handling books or other items from these community sharing spaces to protect yourself and others.
-Leah Newton is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.