By Victoria Martinez
A grassroots effort to make books more accessible to readers of all ages is coming to Buellton due to the efforts of a resident with a more public presence than most: Mayor Holly Sierra.
Sierra and a handful of other volunteers have been working to complete and install the first two Little Free Libraries (LFL) in the valley.
Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization focused on strengthening communities through reading. LFL’s are simply “take a book, return a book” free book exchanges. There are more than 60,000 LFL’s registered in over 80 countries, though only a handful of the boxes in Santa Barbara County and none currently registered in the valley.
The exchange boxes come in all shapes and sizes but are most commonly seen as a creatively personalized wooden box of books. Once installed, the books can be registered at the Little Free Library website for as little as $40 and placed on the site’s interactive search map.
“I was reading an article about Little Free Libraries. I remembered hearing about it in the past and thought, ‘What a great idea,’” Sierra said.
She started researching the cost of purchasing the LFL premade book boxes, but quickly realized the endeavor might be more economical and community focused if they were designed and built close to home.
“The whole idea is that you get creative,” Sierra added.
The blueprints used for these first two boxes were drawn up by Sierra’s father before he died, so they hold special meaning for her. Valley resident Bob Bott took the plans and built the LFL’s and, once completed, they were passed on to others to be personalized.
One box that has been painted by Jonata Middle School students Giszelle McGinnins Hrehor and Charley Hrehor will be installed in the front yard of a residence on Second Street between Jonata and Oak Valley Elementary. The second box is being painted by the Buellton Senior Center and will be installed at PAWS Dog Park.
One of the most unusual qualities about the program is that it’s completely initiated and maintained by members of the community who choose to participate. Sierra hopes that residents become interested enough in the program to create their own boxes. She also sees the possibility of LFL’s becoming a valley-wide endeavor down the road.
“I hope to see a whole explosion of book boxes,” Sierra said.
Buellton City Manager Marc Bierdzinski has said that the city has no regulations on the book boxes being placed on private property other than the boxes being installed at least 10 feet from driveways so they don’t obstruct a driver’s view when backing out.
Visitors to the boxes are encouraged to bring a book or two in exchange for the book they take. The program works on the honor system, so readers can keep a book as long as they’d like and return it to any LFL when finished.
For more information, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org or email Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org.