Book initiative makes a splash in Orange community

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ORANGE, NJ — Ever heard of a book that’s a “real page-turner,” a “compelling read,” a “nail-biter” or that’s “so good you can’t put it down”? These are all popular phrases that describe great books that can cause the reader, engrossed in the story, to be transported to another dimension. That has to be what readers are experiencing when reading books taken from area Little Free Libraries. Recently, the city of Orange joined the growing list of communities taking part in this movement.

According to the Little Free Library website, Todd H. Bol created the first Little Free Library in 2009 in Hudson, Wisc., launching what eventually became a worldwide book-sharing movement. Bol built the first Little Free Library — a small structure that looks like an oversized birdhouse and contains books for sharing — in honor of his mother, a schoolteacher and lifelong reader. Little Free Libraries across the world operate under the concept of “take a book, share a book.”

Little Free Libraries have quickly begun to proliferate in communities both near and far. In 2020, the movement surpassed 100,000 registered libraries in more than 100 countries.

Here in Orange, Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson spearheaded the initiative while working on a Little Free Library Committee with neighbors Alexandra Estevez and Katie Bucco.

“Little Free Libraries was started to provide 24-hour access to libraries,” Summers-Johnson said on Sept. 3. “The process is that you take a book and you can leave a book. Each Little Free Library is maintained by the owner. The libraries are filled with donated books. So far, the city of Orange has five Little Free Libraries. Residents can find the libraries on the official Little Free Library website map.

“I have a little library on my property, and I love seeing my little neighbors pick up books,” she continued. “Our goal is to have Little Free Libraries in every ward. Councilwoman-at-Large (Adrienne) Wooten will be placing Little Free Libraries in the city parks. Little Free Library is a national nonprofit program.”

Summers-Johnson’s late grandfather was the catalyst for her desire to have a Little Free Library placed on her property.

“I wanted to put a Little Library on my property dedicated to my late grandfather because of the many stories that he told when I was a child,” Summers-Johnson said. “At a young age, he struggled with reading, and, once he mastered the craft, there was no stopping him. The William ‘Buddy’ Mitchell Little Free Library will allow children in my neighborhood access to some amazing stories.”

Unity within the community means everything to Estevez.

“My Little Free Library was designed with a purpose to bring our community together with unity, love and respect and to advocate and say no to domestic violence abuse,” Estevez said on Sept. 3. “The love I have for Orange goes deeper than anyone can understand; it’s a place I can call home.”

Orange resident Katie Pogue and her husband, Tim Pogue, are excited to see what the future of this initiative holds.

“We are so excited to share lots of wonderful books with kids in our community,” Katie Pogue said on Sept. 3, adding that she and her husband are “looking forward to seeing students stop by our library en route to and from school. We feel so lucky to be part of a community that worked together to quickly get this project off the ground and are so excited for what the future holds in Orange.”

Anyone can have a Little Free Library on their property. Contact Summers-Johnson at jsummers@orangenj.gov for more information.

“Little Free Libraries can be purchased from the website, or, like me, you can have them built by local handymen and purchase an official charter card for $39 from Little Free Library,” Summers-Johnson said. 

Photos Courtesy of Jamie Summers-Johnson

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