November 6, 2012
Micro lending typically refers to small loans made to third-world entrepreneurs who lack credit or collateral. More often than not, these loans help women develop neighborhood-based businesses in developing nations, providing a pathway out of poverty.
In my community, I noticed different type of micro lending: Neighbor-to-neighbor book exchanges. On a recent walk near my home, I counted three “Little Free Libraries” in a 10-block radius. Looking almost like over-sized birdhouses, these little libraries resemble cottages perched on posts. If you see a book you like, you borrow it. It operates on the honor system.
I dug a bit and learned that a Wisconsinite started the idea three years ago to honor his mother, a former schoolteacher. But unlike regular libraries, he wanted to encourage people to share with each other, develop relationships through the books they read and build community among neighbors. Humble beginnings to be sure but what astounds me is how the concept took off, spreading coast-to-coast and even internationally without any marketing at all. This map shows the spread.
View Little Free Library Index in a larger map
The idea caught fire after a USA Today article, which led to other news stories — some local, some national. And, because Little Free Libraries have such broad appeal, the news coverage gave traction to a good idea. There are now more than 3,000 of these things located worldwide. In fact, the US Peace Corp has installed them in places like Romania and Pakistan.
If you have old books, use this interactive map to find a Little Free Library in your community. Share your love of reading with your neighbors and get to know each other a little better through the literature you read.