On a forested mountain outside of Evergreen, at 8,500 feet elevation, Mary O’Rourke was inspired by COVID-19 to create a Little Free Library for her community.
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But "little" may not be the best description.
The typical Little Free Library is about the size of a large backpack, planted on a 4x4 cedar post in front yards and public spaces. More than 100,000 are registered in 108 countries and a map of Colorado is blurred with innumerable locations.
Despite their common appearance, the Little Free Library organization doesn’t require any specific designs… or size limits.
Mary O’Rourke’s Little Free Library fills an entire Civilian Conservation Corps era cabin on her mountain property.
“It may only be about 12-foot by 8-foot, but it’s big enough to hold the heart of our community,” O’Rourke said. “You can feel a spirit in the air that just makes us feel good that there’s something to pull us all together in a time when everything is trying to push us apart.”
O’Rourke bought the property about a year and half ago and had no idea what she would use the small cabin for. But she knew it was a special part of what drew her to the property and that she would restore it for something.
“I had a vision that it could be something that could help tie the community together,” O’Rourke said. “We’re all great neighbors up here, but we needed someplace to help us gather.”
Inspiration arrived in unexpected form.
“When Covid hit and the libraries closed, the kids up here had nowhere to go and everyone was trying to figure out how to keep a sense of community in spite of having to social distance,” O’Rourke said. “So, I renovated it, worked on it, restored it, and turned it into a library.”
Take a book, leave a book; there are games, movies, CDs, and books to borrow, contributed by O’Rourke and neighbors who immediately helped fill the shelves.
Everything is free for the community.
The library has even hosted a small book signing for author Trish Watson, a neighbor whose book tour was cut short due to the pandemic.
“We need to take lemons when we get them and make lemonade,” Watson said, acknowledging the cliche. “Because I think when it comes down to it, our happiness and joy is based on how well we can do that.”
“What I’ve learned from this pandemic is that we all have to be very flexible and have to be willing to be fluid with our plans and expectations,” Watson said. “It’s a lot about forgiveness, inspiration, grace, love, compassion.”
The bustling of masked neighbors of all ages chatting and visiting the cabin - some meeting for the first time - suggests O’Rourke’s vision has come to fruition, not in-spite-of, but inspired by these challenging times.
"We have our books, and we have the things we love, and it's big enough to share them," O'Rourke said. "And that's really what matters."
The Little Free Library non-profit estimates that it costs from $5 to $150 in materials to build a little library, the lower price based on using recycled materials. Complete kits are available online ranging from $150 for the smallest, to $350 for larger “two story” models.
Library stewards pay a one-time $40 fee to register for a charter sign engraved with a unique charter number and the option to add their location to the global map.
Learn how to build your own with Plans and Tips For Library Builders.
This story is from Rocky Mountain PBS, a nonprofit providing news and information across Colorado over the air and online. Used by permission. For more, and to support Rocky Mountain PBS, visit rmpbs.org.
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