All around Culver City, wooden boxes have been popping up on front lawns. Decorated or plain, these boxes hold books to be given or taken freely – hence the name, Little Free Library. There are 15 registered in Culver City, ( and some not registered as well ) set up for people of all ages to read to their heart’s content, as well as share their favorite books with a lucky stranger.
JAG Gym has installed a Little Free Library on site, pre-constructed and designed to look like a schoolhouse. Vice President and General Manager J.R. Roughton explains how he has been “. . . shocked at how quickly everything can turn over and how many books are inside at any given time. I always assumed it would be feast or famine as someone would drop off and the books would be slowly taken, but we easily go through dozens of books each week – in and out.”
The gym has approximately 2,000 students per week, which allows the Little Free Library to function “ . . . very much like a library with the same families visiting as part of their JAG experience each and every week,” Roughton elaborates.
Others build their libraries to reflect personal interests. One Culver City resident, Darcy Vernier, designed his Little Free Library after an airport hanger following a long career of flying airplanes and helicopters.
“I started with the Marines and flew helicopters in Vietnam. Then island hopping in Hawaii, bush planes in the Sudan for the UN, airliners for a couple airlines, and finally trainers for a number of flight schools in the area,” Vernier explained.
He has plans to rebuild his, inspired by “an old photo and map of the Culver City airport . . . I live on Selmaraine which would be on the airport property if it was still here. The photos you could see through the windows on my library are mostly airplanes that have some connection with my career. . . I plan to cover the exterior walls with pictures of the Culver City Airport with a ‘you are here’ note on the map.”
Christa Bancroft purchased her Little Free Library from the organization’s website, matching the modern design to her own house. Her installation sees a wide variety of genres, including children’s books, nonfiction, novels, and even magazines.
Bancroft reflects that “It seems like people walking by use it, though I’ve actually seen people driving by pull up and put books in.”
There is a social aspect to Little Free Libraries for Bancroft as well. “I asked for it for it for my birthday five years ago and it’s just fun – you end up talking to people as they use it. I like reading so I like making sure that everyone has something good to read.”
Ben Gipson bought his Little Free Library as a dual level structure, specifically designed for both kids and adults. Gipson includes his personal favorite books in his box, reminiscing on the impact of books on his childhood, and now the impact of Little Free Libraries.
“I love the fact that they’re everywhere in Culver City. So many friends and neighbors . . are inspired to do it themselves,”
Lucy Alamillo’s Little Free Library goes to show that the ownership process is kid-friendly as well. The box is designed to look like a miniature house, with a face-down open book as the roof, and idea “chosen and executed by [Alammillo’s] niece and her father to fulfill a Girl Scouts requirement.”
The four small walls have housed many books over four years, “in every topic and type you can imagine, everything from classical philosophy to how to be a hacker.”
Alamillo recounts the strangest book she has encountered, “a sex manual of sorts emphasizing female empowerment . . . and it was quite explicit.”
Unfortunately, some passersby disrespect the Little Free Library, discarding items rather than sharing literature. Most are grateful for the library, though, including Alamillo herself.
“It brings me real joy to see all the activity around the library, to hear the chatter of children, or conversations struck up by passers by. I can’t always keep up with keeping it neat or even well stocked but I’m quite lucky. It seems to me that there are magical book fairies who replenish the books when the stock gets low and neatly stack books if ever a mess is made. I know it’s my lovely neighbors but I still believe it is magical nonetheless.”