A Little Free Library sprouts up in Whitney Farms

Ashley Jones' children, Colton, 4, left, and Lilianna, 5, sit on a bench at her Little Free Yellow Library in their Whitney Farms neighborhood. Contributed

MONROE, CT — A sign in the Whitney Farms neighborhood says, “Bloom where you’re planted,” and, a few feet away, a wooden post for The Little Free Yellow Library sprouts up from a small patch of dirt, surrounded by flowers and a miniature white picket fence.

The book-sharing box, made from a vegetable box, has a roof and three cabinet doors. Children’s books are on the bottom shelf, titles for teens in the middle and adult books are on the top.

Ashley Jones, whose family moved into the neighborhood from Stratford four months ago, started the library, which also has a bench for people to read outdoors.

“It’s for storage too,” she said of the bench during a telephone interview Thursday. “It has games and cards that people can borrow, play with and bring back. It should bring more happiness to their homes and a little more fun, because buying things like that adds up.”

The bench also has nursery and baby books.

The Little Free Yellow Library will provide ways for residents to entertain themselves, while staying home amid the coronavirus pandemic. The small area also has hand sanitizer and wipes.

Jones and her husband, Marcus, have two children, Lilianna, 5, and Colton, 4. Marcus is an aircraft mechanic at Sikorsky in Stratford and Ashley works from home with a Pampered Chef business.

“My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, so I decided to go with something to give back to the community,” Ashley Jones said.

Jones’ library is a registered Little Free Library. When she lived in Stratford, Jones picked her daughter up from dance class on Saturdays and took her to a Little Free Library there.

“I thought about what makes me happy. What do I like to do?” she said of her birthday wish. “The Little Free Library always made my daughter and I happy. It was always something to look forward too. Having a library in front of our house is a way for children to get outdoors and have something to do.”

Jones’ birthday was May 21 and her little library opened last week.

Among the biggest supporters of Jones’ effort to start a little library was her friend, Karin Doyle, who is the economic development coordinator for the town of Stratford.

“It’s just a nice thing to do to support the community,” Doyle said. “I’m really impressed that Ashley took the initiative to do this. She’s just an impressive person.”

Book-sharing boxes worldwide

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization promoting book-sharing boxes in areas such as neighborhoods and parks. Its website says, “Celebrating 100,000 Little Free Library Book-Sharing Boxes Worldwide.”

The website LittleFreeLibrary.org has information on the organization, as well as a map of registered libraries. Jones’ bought the charter number 101780, which allows her to use the Little Free Library name.

The description for Jones’ library reads: “Hi all! Welcome to our Little Free Yellow Library! We are hoping this brings more community, meeting new people from a safe distance, more love and laughter into homes, and more imagination for our readers! Please take a book & share a book! We hope you enjoy our library!”

Jones bought a vegetable box for her book-sharing box and her husband built the roof and painted it with their children.

The Little Free Library organization also sells models of boxes for those who do not want to build their own. According to a video about the nonprofit, the boxes are mostly made by carpenters in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Little Free Library provides tips to promote a book sharing box. Jones used Facebook to share posts asking for book donations.

“I’m just blown away,” she said. “We received 20 donations of bags filled with books from our community. It was really nice.”

Her book sharing box has a variety of genres for children, teens and adults. Updates on book donations are posted on The Little Free Yellow Library Facebook page, where Jones interacts with her neighbors about book exchanges and donations.

“The community has just been so supportive and we keep hearing nothing but positive feedback,” Jones said. “We’re just excited to meet new friends and see familiar faces. It’s just so exciting seeing families outside.”

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