Stewards: Judey and Ken Kalchik
When did you put up your LFL and where did it come from?
The birthday of the Little Free Library of Rose Drive is September 13, 2020. I cheated and checked the date of the first post on its Facebook page. It was designed and built by Ken Kalchik. He added some unique details: the roof is made of hand-cut tiles from a reclaimed piece of copper. He made two separate sections, one for the ‘BIGS’ and one for the ‘Littles’. There’s a pole with directional arrows to our favorite places, many of which we have visited in our favorite books.
What inspired you to become an LFL steward?
I spent 24 years in bookselling, which was a natural career for me since books and reading have always been magical to me. I’ve wanted an LFL for quite a while but the pandemic finally helped us decide this was the right time. We couldn’t interact with our neighbors but we wanted to connect with them, especially as we have had such an increase in folks walking along our flat dead-ended street. With the public library closed at that time (But open now! Shout out to AADL and the Summer Game! I love you!) giving our community a place to go to browse and take a book home would, we thought, give something normal back to the families in our area.
What impact did you hope your LFL would have on your neighborhood?
I hoped that the children would discover books that made them happy, made them think, made them dream, and made them laugh. And there is hope that the grown-ups would find some new authors and some old favorites. There is a bench beside the LFL and we frequently see families using it. Sometimes parents are reading books to their children, but often the kids climb up themselves and read. Last Fall the reaction that made me happiest was a middle school visitor to the neighborhood. She told me she had found a first edition in there. It was Nancy Drew, book 1 in the series and was her new favorite book. Not really a first edition, but to her it was priceless. We also wanted folks to do what the LFL slogan is: Take a Book. Leave a Book. Never for Sale. All of those things have happened.
What has the response to your LFL been?
Overwhelmingly positive. Even during the winter, we had visitors. Every once in a while we have been cleaned out of all the kid’s books, and that makes me sad. I know there are folks that take books and sell them online, unfortunately, you’ll have that even in our wonderful city. While the books are free and I want them to be shared, it does break my heart to have books I carefully select and buy taken and sold by someone and not get to the children and neighbors I’d hope would receive them. It’s not unique among our LFL, and it won’t stop us from stocking it. Each time I just hope that it won’t happen again.
Are there certain age groups or subject matters your library is geared towards?
No, we try to have something for everyone. We have DVDs, books on CD show up, comic books, dinosaurs, cookbooks, diet books, fiction, history, biography, coloring books, joke books, sci-fi, mystery, fantasy. As a former Waldenbooks/Borders employee I enjoy having a wide variety of genres and authors for my ‘customers’.
In what ways has your LFL enriched your life?
Once again I am helping people find a book that makes their faces shine and their step lighten. To do so in conjunction with my husband, and include something that he created, is frankly a dream come true. Our passions are literacy, hunger, and homelessness; so this is right up there in importance.
Do you have any advice for people considering putting up an LFL in their neighborhood?
- Make sure it is watertight! You can buy one from the Little Free Library organization if you like, but I think building it can be so much more fun.
- Check online (Pinterest or the LFL site) to get ideas on the many styles there are. Make it simple, quirky, reclaimed, match your house- whatever you like.
- Tell people that you are planning to do it and let them know you will take donations. Have a dry and safe place to store books until you need to restock.
- Buying all the books yourself is fun but it can get expensive. (I am talking to you, lady that keeps loading the children’s’ books into your car!)
- Refresh it every once in a while. I switch out books about once a month so our visitors can enjoy discovering something new.
- Do it because you love it.
Follow the Rose Drive LFL on Facebook!
Judey has also recently started a Facebook page for Little Free Libraries in Ann Arbor.
Featured in July 2021 newsletter