Weather Forecast


Take a book, leave a book, read a book

Kevin Mahoney Steward #3119 1303 Lakeside Dr. SW Alexandria Mahoney built his own library, which he calls the "Crooked Little Library," and installed it in his front yard in his quiet residential neighborhood. Because the program encourages book recycling, he decided to use recycled materials in the construction. Concerned that people were hesitant to walk through his lawn to visit the library, he later added a sidewalk leading up to it and is considering adding a bench next to it this summer.1 / 3
Joan Larson Steward #3984 9658 Maple Circle NW Alexandria Larson's Little Free Library was built by her son from plans that she obtained from the Little Free Library website. It was erected in October at the end of her driveway in a rural residential area by Lake Ida.2 / 3
Del Mari Runck Steward #2737 2115 White Oak Circle NE Alexandria Runck's Little Free Library was built by her neighbor, Roger Thalman. She wanted it to look like a mini replica of her own home, so Thalman designed it accordingly. It's located at the end of her driveway in a residential cul de sac. It was erected in November, but she plans to hold a "grand re-opening" in the spring. Runck placed fliers in each book explaining how the library works and encourages readers to sign their name after read...3 / 3

Take a book, leave a book, but - most importantly - read a book! That is the hope of three local residents who erected public libraries right in their own yards.

Kevin Mahoney, Joan Larson and Del Mari Runck, all of Alexandria, each heard about the Little Free Library program and decided it was something they wanted to be part of.


Mahoney's daughter, Macaille, told him about the project after seeing a TV news segment on it. Mahoney immediately began researching it, and even visited a Little Free Library in a yard in Detroit Lakes before setting to work on building his own.

"I thought it seemed like a neat thing to do," he said. "I like the idea of being part of something that's growing, and this idea is growing quickly."

After he put up his library, he made flyers that explained the concept and handed them out around the neighborhood. But he's not stopping there.

"Part of my goal is to grow this in our community," he said. "I'd like to see at least 20 to 30 of these built around town with maps showing people where they are all located.

"I want to help people get started. If there are woodworkers out there looking for a winter project, this is a great one!"

Mahoney also built a Little Free Library for his daughter. Because she is a cake decorator, he created a round library that looks like a cake.

"Building it round wasn't easy," he admitted. "I probably won't do that again. But the rest of this concept is definitely easy. Most people have boxes of books in their basement. It's as simple as putting up a library and sharing books."

Mahoney has noticed activity at his library, but hopes for more.

"I want people to realize that this library belongs to everybody," he said. "They can take books to read, but can put other books into it also.

"My hope is that people will get hooked on books and maybe start going to the county library to read even more."


A friend in Detroit Lakes erected a Little Free Library and shared the idea with Larson, an avid reader and member of the Douglas County Friends of the Library.

"It's just such an intriguing idea!" Larson said. "My husband was a great library user and he used to say he wished the Bookmobile would come and park in the back lot by our house. The idea of a little library out here by our home was really neat!"

There are a lot of walkers in Larson's residential neighborhood on Lake Ida, and she said books have definitely been going out from her library.

"There's just something about a free book people like," she said.


Runck read about the program in The Forum newspaper and was immediately intrigued. Also an avid reader and member of the Douglas County Friends of the Library, she researched it further and decided to erect a library in her yard.

She filled it with books from her own shelves and books purchased at the Douglas County Library Used Book Store.

She then delivered letters to the neighbors explaining the library and inviting all to use it.

"I just believe it is so important for people to read," she said. "Reading is going to prepare you for success.

"I have such good memories of visiting the Bookmobile as a child," she added. "A lot of people don't go to the library, and I want everyone to have access to books."


The Little Free Library mission is to promote literacy and build a sense of community through free book exchanges.

The program was started in 2009 by Todd Bol of Wisconsin as a tribute to his mother. He built a weather-proof miniature schoolhouse and placed it in his yard with a sign offering free books to anyone wanting to read them. Soon libraries started sprouting up in other yards.

Little Free Library was incorporated as a nonprofit and Bol set a goal to have more little libraries built than the total number of libraries built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (2,509). That goal was realized in August 2012. There are now 5,000 to 6,000 Little Free Libraries in 36 countries.

Individuals can design and build their own libraries, or purchase them from the program's website. There is a fee to register a library with the organization. Once registered, each owner is sent an official numbered plaque and the library is placed on a Google map with global positioning coordinates.

For more information, visit


Mahoney, Runck and Larson will lead a Community Education class sharing information about the Little Free Library program. The free class is Wednesday, March 20 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Discovery Middle School media center in Alexandria. To register, call (320) 762-3310 or visit

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

(320) 763-1211