Nestled in the tiny village of Menangle, an innovative reading project is encouraging residents to return to books and a love of reading.
The project titled “Little Free Library” is operated by primary school teacher and literacy coordinator Laura Egan-Burt. Mrs Burt has run the project since 2014 after being engaged in a book-crossing scheme, but discovered she was attracted to the permanency of Little Free Library.
As an organisation, Little Free Library began in 2009 in the USA after creator Todd Bol built a model of a school house as tribute to his late mother with a sign that said “free books.”
In the current age of technology, the popularity of print media is on the decline – but Little Free Library programs aim to revitalise a love of reading.
“I think it has inspired people to swap good, quality books. Books they’ve enjoyed.” Mrs Burt said.
Little Free Library at Menangle is one of 10 in NSW.
“I like all types of reading, however, I especially like browsing around second hand book shops,” Mrs Burt said. “There aren’t many in our area, so when I stumbled across Little Free Library as an organisation it seemed like a fun thing to do.”
The small town of Menangle hasn’t affected the popularity of the library either. The project is located right at Mrs Burt’s front door, who is assisted by her husband Jason and two daughters Siobhan and Neave in running the library.
“We are a tad isolated in Menangle, so the village has embraced it,” she said. “People come from far and wide. We run the Little Free Library at Wollondilly Markets at Wilton when we have time. We give away a lot of books there.”
Helen Robertson, a long time resident of Menangle and previous owner of the Menangle Store, praises the program.
“It’s a really unique and attractive set up,” she said. “There’s not much in Menangle for younger kids, so this is really great. I know my own child has donated books, only to go back and read them again.”
“We have an international presence due to the Facebook page, and I’ve made friends with other library stewards in America and Europe,” Mrs Burt said. “We’re very proud.”
As of January 2016, it is estimated that the total number of Little Free Libraries has reached 36,000 worldwide.