If you happen to be walking, driving or riding a bike around Harveys Lake, 5-year-old Jacob Yatsko has a message for you.
He loves books and if you do, too, you are welcome to visit his Little Free Library, near Pole 195, where you can take a book, leave a book, and maybe write a message on the tablet.
“We have a little bit of everything,” Jacob’s mother, Erin Yatsko, said last week. “Cookbooks, books on traveling, books on ‘Buckskinning 101.’ There are little prayer books, romance novels, children’s books, and I even put some magazines in there.”
After Jacob’s father, Dave Yatsko, built the schoolhouse-shaped cabinet, Jacob painted a frog decoration on it himself. They set it up about six weeks ago, and young Jacob has been watching eagerly ever since for evidence that someone has taken a book or left another.
So far, Erin Yatsko said, no one seems to have stopped.
“I think they don’t know what it is,” she said. “They might think it’s a mailbox, or they might be afraid to touch someone else’s property.”
But the whole idea of a Little Free Library is for people to use it and share books they would recommend to others, building a greater sense of community along the way.
The concept began about four years ago when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., built a miniature library, about the size of a home bookcase, and set it up outdoors in honor of his mother, a school teacher who had instilled in him an appreciation for reading. He invited his neighbors to “take a book, return a book,” and the idea spread. Today there are more than 5,000 Little Free Libraries in the United States and other countries.
Some have been established by Rotary clubs or Scout troops, others by individuals or families who serve as stewards.
LeAnne and Jerry Brogan of Freeland set up a Little Free Library close to a year ago in Martin’s Square on Centre Street near “Freeland’s only traffic light,” where they know it gets a lot of use.
“I see it every day on my way to work,” said LeAnne Brogan, 55, who is a librarian at Drums Elementary School. “We’ve had many different activities there; right now we’ve invited people to leave a photo of a favorite vacation activity.”
On a recent Wednesday, the Little Free Library held dozens of children’s books, including an anthology of fairy tales, as well as such classics as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Lord of the Flies” and “The Red Badge of Courage.”
While Brogan regularly carries books in her car so she can replenish the supply if needed, other members of the community have responded generously.
“Last year we sat there and gave out about 50 books to trick-or-treaters as part of a ‘safe Halloween’ event,” she said. “This year I put an ad in the paper asking for gently used children’s books, and now I have about 800 in my basement.”
Anyone who would like to donate a book for distribution at Halloween may drop it off at the Freeland YMCA on Front Street or at Videomania on Centre Street, she said.
“We want to instill a love of reading in children,” said Brogan, who is writing a children’s book herself. “You’ve got to get them while they’re young.”
Avid reader Katie Roarty, 15, of Luzerne, said she and her sister noticed another Little Free Library on a trip to buy doughnuts in Forty Fort.
Forty Fort’s Little Free Library is behind the Dunkin Donuts at 1318 Wyoming Ave., where it is quite visible to anyone patronizing the drive-through lane.
The sisters didn’t know what it was but found the location listed on a geocache site and decided to stop by.
“I left a book about Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’ ‘Chronicles of Narnia,’ ” Roarty said. “I took a mystery by Agatha Christie.”
Indeed, at the Forty Fort location there have been lots of mystery stories, including “Murder by Mocha,” which is part of a Coffeehouse Mystery Series, and “The Homicide Hustle,” which is part of a Ballroom Dance collection of mysteries.
“It was really fun just to find it,” said Roarty, who thinks the Little Free Libraries are a charming idea.
“It’s all about trust and honesty, because it’s on the honor system,” she added.
If you look at the Free Library website, littlefreelibrary.org, where stewards can register their libraries and benefit from increased exposure, you will find some of the frequently asked questions are on that topic.
Don’t worry about stealing, the website advises, because a free book can’t be stolen. And don’t worry about vandalism, because such incidents are rare.
The concept of a Little Free Library is all about sharing. According to the website, “If this were just about providing free books on a shelf, the whole idea might disappear after a few months. Little Free Libraries have a unique, personal touch, and there is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their communities. These aren’t just any old books. This is a carefully curated collection, and the Library itself is a piece of neighborhood art.”
Back at Harveys Lake, the Yatsko family hopes someone will stop and take a book and either bring it back or pass it on.
Ideally, Erin Yatsko said, someone else might set up a Little Free Library on the other side of the lake and people could pass books along, from one location to the other.