Soon, it really will be spring. At least, that’s the promise of winter, right? Our windows inch open, our boots stow away and, at least on my block near campus, we embrace not only an increase in foot traffic but also the delightful, audible uptick in the number of “Oooooo … look!” and “Ahhhhh … cute!” expressions.

No, it’s not the new babies; our ’hood has those, and each is decidedly cute. Nor is it the spring tulips; when they pop, they are praise-grabbers for sure. What could it be that has even erstwhile neighbor Father Dease joining in on the oooo and ahhh action?

Carol Bruess

Carol Bruess

Simple. (Literally!) It’s a Little Free Library, one of an estimated 6,000 in more than 36 countries. These little containers of goodness unilaterally capture pure and good-spirited attention by the young, the old and the priestly alike. Our own stands happily a just block from campus down Portland near Wilder. And it reflects the mission of the Little Free Library concept: Take a book, return a book.

An auspicious idea born by a lone, creative, big-hearted man in Wisconsin a few years ago, the LFL concept is becoming an international phenomenon. You’ve probably started to spy, right in the Twin Cities, LFLs sprouting like spring daffodils in fertile spring lawns. Some of the earliest (I would argue the cutest, not that I’m competitive or anything) are right here within blocks of our own, big and beautiful O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library.

While Littlefreelibrary.org offers a full history of the super-simple LFL concept, I especially appreciate the answer to “What’s so special about having a Little Free Library?” Indeed: “If this were just about providing free books on a shelf, the whole idea might disappear after a few months. Little Free Libraries have a unique, personal touch and there is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community … .” Refuge Films has even made a fab little documentary about Little Free Libraries, capturing a movement that “celebrates the joy of reading and the power of community.” The one-minute trailer will make you grin because, well, the idea is just a good old grin-worthy one. Watch the trailer.

Most recently, I have curated our own LFL collection with some books that just might have been shared by someone who just might be president of a university with which you might just be familiar; a president who always has been a generous, delightful leader; and a president who has long been a really caring neighbor as well.

While I can’t say for sure what you will find in our LFL (no records kept, no checking-out required!), you might just find a book that one soon-to-be-retired president, as well as others who wander the best neighborhood in St. Paul, has left in our ooooo-worthy and ahhhh-inspiring, cedar-shake-roofed, always-open library.

In the spirit of LFLs everywhere, we invite you to stop by! Literally, any time. You might take a book; you might leave one. For sure, you’ll enjoy a little moment of looking. It’s impossible not to.