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Royal Oak

Resident starts neighborhood Little Free Library

October 9, 2013

» click to enlarge «
Michelle Henry stands before Little Free Library charter No. 5072, a little library she created and now stewards standing near the intersection of 14 Mile Road and Coolidge Highway in Royal Oak. Nearby residents can pick out a book and replace it with one of their own.
Henry, a Royal Oak resident, points to the sign above her Little Free Library. Henry said she is still looking for romance and mystery novels.

ROYAL OAK — Michelle Henry was looking for something to bring her neighborhood together, and she found the answer while using Facebook.

Henry saw a picture of what was called a Little Free Library — simply a wooden box filled with free books for anyone to use.

She went to the organization’s website and found that there were similar little libraries all over the world, but none were within walking distance from her.

She decided to change that.

“You know, that’s something I want in my community and my neighborhood,” Henry remembered thinking that day.

So she ordered one of the organization’s preassembled boxes made of repurposed materials and went to the store to buy a wooden post on which to place it.

On the same day the box arrived in September, Little Free Library charter No. 5072 was born and now resides near the intersection of Coolidge Highway and 14 Mile Road — directly across from Upton Elementary.

“It was maybe a couple of hours from beginning to end,” she said of the time it took to assemble. “And most of that was because I was waiting for my drill to charge.”

Currently, there are about 50 books within the free library, with genres ranging from children’s books to novels.

The premise of the library is to allow patrons to walk up to it, browse the selection and grab a book of their choice. Ideally, the people should replace a book they select with one of their own, but they don’t have to.

While she has a wide range of reading options, Henry said she still is looking for romance and mystery novels.

To publicize the Little Free Library that Henry stewards, she and her 6-year-old daughter have been walking her neighborhood and hanging up fliers.

Her daughter “was stopping joggers and telling them, ‘Hey, hey, I have to tell you something,’” Henry said.

The Little Free Library, as a national organization, began in 2009 when a Wisconsin man built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher who loved reading, according to the organization’s website. Today, the organization says there are up to 12,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide.

According to the website database, Royal Oak residents near Rochester Road and Woodlawn Avenue have one located at 413 Woodlawn Ave.

There is also another in Berkley, located at 3929 Kenmore Road.

Lisa Gonzales, who lives in Berkley, discovered the Kenmore library while biking around her neighborhood with her boyfriend. She returned days later and found “Green Eggs and Ham” for her daughter to read.

“I told my 6-year-old about it and have picked out a book together to take to the library in return,” she said in an email. “It’s such a cool idea to have these in the community and to share it with my daughter.”

She thinks Free Little Libraries add more than just literacy to a neighborhood.

“Besides just borrowing books, I believe it attracts the passer-by in a neighborhood, like us, to stop and pause,” Gonzales said.

They noticed a little meadow near the library, and it has become a favorite biking destination for her, her boyfriend and daughter.

“It is more than just about borrowing books,” she said. “We find it very charming.”

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