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Little Free Library offers big concept - meet authors and neighbors

November 13, 2013|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • Nicole Berklas, second from right, and her children Gage, left, August, second from left, and Laura, right, in front of their home on the 800 block of West Mountain Ave., where a Little Free Library kiosk contains books, in Glendale on Saturday, September 14, 2013. People can take books, borrow books and leave books for others in the kiosk.
Nicole Berklas, second from right, and her children Gage,… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Nichole Berklas and her family had an abundance of books, but exchanged few words with their North Glendale neighbors until they built a Little Free Library in front of their Mountain Avenue home.

Resembling an oversized mailbox in the shape of a house, their Little Free Library holds about two dozen books and invites passersby to take home a good read or leave one for another to enjoy.

The Berklas’ book-sharing kiosk was the first of its kind in Glendale when it went up about a year ago, but is now part of a growing national network of Little Free Libraries soon to spread throughout the city.

The Glendale Public Library plans to build five later this year at various public parks, including a new 300-square-foot open space parklet along North Brand Boulevard, librarian Keith Kesler said.

The take-a-book, leave-a-book system “goes hand in hand with what the [city] library wants to accomplish, which is building community and promoting literacy,” Kesler said.

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Berklas, an attorney, said she and husband James Berklas jumped at the opportunity to pass along books they’ve enjoyed and made it a family effort by involving their three elementary school-age children, who are also voracious readers.

Now it’s a two-way street, with a steady stream of donations replenishing the library and conversations it has sparked creating stronger community bonds.

In the six years before launching their Little Free Library, “we’d have tons of neighbors walk past [our house] without meeting anybody,” Nichole Berklas said. “Now, we will be out in our yard and people will stop to talk to us about the library and how much they enjoy it,”

There are more than 10,000 Little Free Library kiosks operating throughout the world, said Megan Hanson, a development specialist with Wisconsin-based Little Free Library, the nonprofit that launched the concept online in 2009.

Berklas purchased one of several library kiosk kits offered for sale at littlefreelibrary.org, but downloadable plans to guide do-it-yourself projects are also available.

Kevin Barry and his wife, Sherry, who live on Truitt Street near the Disney animation studios in southwest Glendale, recycled wood from a discarded forklift pallet to build the city’s second Little Free Library in April.

Kevin Barry said the library has already helped him meet more than a dozen neighbors and discover new authors as well.

“I love books. This is a way to give people what I like and see if they like it too,” he said.

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Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.

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