RED WING — The library in front of Robert and Sandy Miller’s home is open 24/7.
No library card is needed to enjoy the modest book collection at 1876 Woodland Drive. There’s no complicated Dewey Decimal system or electronic book catalog to navigate.
You simply open the little library’s door and take a book or leave a book.
That’s the idea behind Little Free Libraries, a project started in Hudson, Wis., by two men dedicated to promoting literacy and reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
The simple idea has spread rapidly since the first Little Free Library made its debut. Robert and Sandy Miller’s library — a miniature white house with a red door stacked with 20 to 30 books — is No. 660 of an estimated 1,600 libraries around the world.
A sign on each Little Free Library provides simple instructions: "Take a Book, Leave a Book," though it's not a requirement to do both.
“If you can just get someone to read a book, they will realize what’s in books and they read more,” Robert said. “The more they read, the more they learn.”
Sandy never read books — until she met her husband. Now they both look forward to what their Little Free Library can do for their community.
“You have the world at your fingertips when you read,” she said.
Robert built his Little Free Library a few months ago after seeing a magazine article. An avid woodworker, he figured the project was a perfect way to keep him occupied in his shop.
He and his wife mounted his creation in the front yard, unsure what to expect.
Then the parade of curious people began.
Robert said at least one person stops by each day to either drop off or pick up a book. Most days the library has two or three visitors.
“It has been really neat,” Robert said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
The Millers stocked their library with books they had around the house. Sandy went to the Salvation Army to round out the collection with children’s books.
The stock in their Little Free Library has become quite diverse during the past few months, with everything from a mystery novel written 80 years ago, to cook books, to sewing instructional guides.
Rick Brooks, Little Free Library co-founder, said he started the project not only to promote literacy, but to foster a sense of community and pride in the neighborhoods where the libraries are built.
“People really identify with giving and sharing with what they think is valuable,” he said. “The builders of these libraries don’t see it as they own it. They see it as it belongs to the neighborhood.”
That might explain why so few reports of vandalism are reported. Brooks said residents take watch over the libraries, ensuring they aren’t damaged. When they are, neighbors repair the libraries quickly.
Brooks said approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of the people who have Little Free Libraries build their own.
Libraries can also be ordered online or donated to those who are financially or physically unable to build their own.
“We did hope it would get this big. It’s been fun,” Brooks said. “In our fondest dreams, this is exactly what we hoped would happen.”
To learn more about how to build a Little Free Library or to locate a library in your area, visit the Little Free Library website.