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Little libraries sprout in Winona (08/13/2014)
By Chris Rogers

     Photo by Chris Rogers

. Homeowner Sandy Villard (left) gathers around the Little Free Library in her yard with woodworkers Harley Antoff (center) and Jim Frankard (right), who crafted a slew of the "take a book, return a book" boxes. They were drawn to the community bookshelves by the promise of making reading more accessible for children and reuniting neighbors.

The neighbor boys were cautious. "Is it really all right for us to take a book?" they asked Sandy Villard. Soon they were devouring hunting magazines at a prodigious rate. Next week a neighbor was slipping a novel into the box in Villard's yard. Villard is one of a few Winona homeowners in town with a Little Free Library in her yard. Woodworkers Jim Frankard and Harley Antoff, who crafted and installed Villard's little library, are ready to double the number of little libraries overnight.

Essentially a waterproof wooden box on a pole with books inside, the tiny library bears resemblance to an oversized birdhouse. When neighbors and passersby pull the box's glass door open by its little brass handle, they find a humble collection of a dozen or so books.

An iconic mustache dominates the cover of "Yanni In Words," a mountainous section of the Great Wall is emblazoned on the cover of "Guide to China," and a baby on its hands and knees beams up at the camera on the jacket of a celebrity pediatrician's book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block." Villard turns over a novel called "The Pilot's Wife."

Anyone can pick up, return, or trade books when they choose at the little library. "Take a book, return a book," reads the library's sign. "You don't have to return the same one, but a book," Villard said, explaining tiny library etiquette. Being quiet is not necessary.

Woodworking hobbyists, Frankard and Antoff felt that constructing little libraries was the community-buiding project for them. They found an eager host in Villard, who dug a post hole in her garden last year specifically for such a library. The woodworkers and the excited homeowner connected by chance. Frankard and Antoff have four other libraries already completed and just waiting for property owners to host them. Ultimately, they hope to install 10 little libraries, adding on to the few boxes that already exist in town.

"I enjoy reading and I know so many kids are not reading today, they're looking at these electronic machines these days," Frankard said when asked why pursued the project. Many parents working more than full-time do not have the time to take their kids to the library, so the Little Free Libraries make it very convenient for families to find new books or for kids to grab one on their own on their way to school or the park.

"I can see it being a place to talk to your neighbor, because you don't talk to your neighbor much anymore," Villard said. "We grew up in an era where it was normal and important for neighbors to talk," she added. When her late husband died, there were four neighbors in her yard shoveling snow the next day because he had helped shoveled their walks for decades, she said. "That's what a neighborhood should be," she continued.

Winona homeowners interested in hosting one of Frankard and Antoff's Free Little Libraries may contact Jim Frankard at 507-454-3274. 


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