The Little Free Libraries of Arlington Park are bringing neighbors together over the love of reading. This free book exchange program allows neighbors to deposit their used books and pick up new ones that spark their interest. Working solely on the honor system, this program has received high praise from the neighborhood's Little Free Library creators for its community building.
The leafy old neighborhood of Arlington Park, which stretches from Bahia Vista to Webber streets, has the highest concentration of little libraries of any Sarasota neighborhood. Nestled between its homes stand nine little libraries, with their brightly decorated walls and plaques declaring their certification with the Little Free Library, a national nonprofit organization that makes books more accessible to everyone. Neighbors interested in establishing a library can go to the Little Free Library website and purchase a kit, or make and decorate a library from scratch.
Sarasota realtor and Arlington Park resident Julia Clark has created a Facebook page for the neighborhood, with a link to an interactive map on the national website, showing where each little library is located. "It's been an exciting time, and a nice way to stay connected to your community," says Clark. "All ages have gotten involved, so you never know what [books] you're going to find."
Little library owner Kay Zahn has involved her local women's group in the creation and maintenance of the Hillview Street library. "I've lived in this neighborhood for 21 years, and I just love my neighbors and this place," says Zahn. "I've been very lucky." Her women's group built three little libraries at a workshop, and with each member an avid reader, they've contributed books to the rotating supply.
Another Arlington resident and library owner Alyson Noune equips her own library with books written by her author friends, in hopes they gain recognition. "I have met neighbors out in my yard, interested in the library, and it makes my heart so warm," says Noune. "I feel like a conduit of what the library provides, which is books, knowledge and education."
One of the greatest benefits of the program is the involvement of neighborhood kids. Kids can find toys, puzzles and coloring books in some of the little libraries, along with books for every age. "I have seen kids approach [the library] excitedly," says Noune.
Anyone can start a Little Free Library in their neighborhood or donate books, and help grow a sense of community like Arlington Park has. "This experience has been so wonderful," says Zahn. "I always remind neighbors that this is not my little library, but it's ours."