'Little Free Library' getting big results
SPRUCE PINE – After Rick Gougeon saw a Little Free Library box for the first time, he was inspired.
Gougeon, the owner of Books and Beans book store and coffee shop in Little Switzerland, was visiting his eldest son in Pensacola, Florida, this past year when he saw something unique while taking an afternoon walk – a wooden box full of books with a sign that read “Little Free Library, take a book, return a book.”
“I saw this little thing that looked like a birdhouse,” Gougeon said. “I got a little closer and realized there were books in it. Then I was curious what was going on.
“My son told me it was a library and you could get a book out of there and put another in. I remember ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ being in there. I can’t even keep that one in stock in my store and here it was in this box.”
When Gougeon returned to Mitchell County this past summer, he started looking for a place to put a Little Free Library box. He approached Spruce Pine Main Street Executive Director Libby Phillips with the idea and she was eager to help.
“When Rick came to me with the idea, I was thrilled,” Phillips said. “As an avid reader, I know how many doors a good book can open in one’s imagination.”
Spruce Pine Main Street Design and Beautification volunteers prepared the area known as Overlook Park above the public parking lot on Locust Street. They planted grass and flowers and placed a bench that was donated by the Rotary Club of Spruce Pine.
When the area was ready, Gougeon built the box and registered it with the Little Free Library nonprofit organization.
The box features a glass door with a small, gold latch and is adorned with signs displaying the Little Free Library website and information about how the library works. Gougeon loaded the box with more than 20 books from his shop and came back shortly after to check on the stock.
“I came back after the first couple weeks and maybe about a quarter of the books were gone and not replaced,” he said. “I brought a couple more and stuck them in there. Since then, it has settled into a pattern. It’s never full, but it’s never empty.”
Phillips said the box now plays an important role in downtown.
“A Little Free Library in our downtown is a great way for the community to come together, get to know one another and give back,” Phillips said. “It creates a sense of community and is a great way to spend an afternoon in the park.”
Phillips said she knows of two other Little Free Library boxes in Mitchell County – one in Penland and another at the United Methodist Church in Spruce Pine.
The Little Free Library organization works to inspire the love of reading while building community through book exchanges.
The first Little Free Library box was built in 2009 by creator Todd Bol. Now, boxes can be found in all 50 states and 70 countries.
“With us being a major bookstore in the area, we thought it would be a nice thing to do for the community,” Gougeon said. “It is a very neat concept.”