Putting old books into new hands: Little Free Libraries are popping up in Eastwood

232 Stafford Avenue

Eastwood, located on the Northeast tip of the city, is known for its early 20th century homes, community driven residents and walkable tree-lined streets. The area seems to be poised to soon add another endearing characteristic to the area; Little Free libraries.

Housed in small containers, these libraries are part of the larger nonprofit organization, Little Free Library, an idea conceived by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009. The mission of the organization is to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and creating a sense of community by sharing skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.

The first library of its kind arrived in Eastwood about 5 years ago, on the 1200 block of Teall Avenue, owned by Tina and Melissa Lesley-Fox. Made from an old kitchen cabinet, the library was a gift to the family from children for whom they nannied. When the Lesley-Foxes moved to 242 Winthrop Road, the library came with them.

Since then, several other libraries have popped up in the area and can be found at 524 Hixson Avenue, 232 Stafford Avenue and 412 Plymouth Drive. Last week, through funding provided from Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today, the neighborhood added its 5th library, located at 3501 James Street in front of Cafe Kubal. Their first on public property.

Each library has an owner, or a steward, who cares for and maintains the structure, often refilling it with new books when necessary. With a motto of “Take a Book, Return a Book”, users are asked to return the books when finished, much like a regular community library, but not everyone follows the guideline. Unphased by this, neighbors in the Eastwood area, including the Lesley-Foxes, often “book-bomb” each other when they notice or hear that a library is short on its usual selection.

Rita Book

Tina and Melissa Lesley-Fox aren’t just owners of a Little Free Library; they’re what I would call, book ambassadors. This summer, they could be seen handing out free books at several local events including the Eastwood Market Day and the Memorial Day Parade. Accompanying them at these events was ‘Rita Book,’ a library mascot they created for the Creek Float, a local art parade held on Onondaga Creek. This halloween, instead of candy, they were handing out books. If you ask Tina and Melissa why they give their time, energy and resources to such a cause, you get an expected yet admirable answer – they love books and they’re passionate about bettering their community.

The neighborhood’s passion for reading is widespread. Eastwood is home to two award-winning independently owned bookstores, Books End and Books & Melodies. Paine Branch Library, part of the Onondaga County Public Library System, can be found on Nichols Avenue in the neighborhood. Eastwood is also home to Blessed Sacrament, a parochial school located on James Street. Each year, its principal, Andrea Polcaro, challenges her students to read a certain number of books with a promise of a wild reward. Just this past year, students were allowed to smash eggs on her head, after reading some 22,000 books.

Eastwood Reads at Art on the Porches

The Eastwood Neighborhood Association, a local nonprofit dedicated to promoting, developing and enhancing the community has recently created a committee, Eastwood Reads, with the purpose of providing direction to anyone interested in owning their own Little Free Library. The committee has partnered with local artists who can build the necessary wooden structure for approximately $125-$175. The committee aims to also promote literacy and encourage community engagement through the project. Anyone who is interested in learning more is encouraged to contact eastwoodreads@eastwoodneighborhood.com.