Little libraries dot Siskiyou landscape

Cassandra Tiersma
The little library at Spring Hill Nursery and Gardens in Mount Shasta is one of several around the county.

Every year the Dunsmuir Rotary Club does a significant community project for the City of Dunsmuir. Each year’s Rotary project is chosen by the club’s current president. This year’s president of the Dunsmuir Rotary Club, Kate O’Grady, said she’d been wanting to install a Little Free Library in Dunsmuir for a long time, saying, “It was a kind of dream I had.”

O’Grady said she’d been planning to have a little free library for quite some time, and had already purchased the charter sign for a Little Free Library a year and a half ago. So, when O’Grady became president of the Dunsmuir Rotary Club, she already knew what project she’d choose for the club to do this year. Thus, Dunsmuir’s first Little Free Library was constructed and installed for the Dunsmuir Rotary Club by Dunsmuir Rotarian, Dave Keisler. It is conveniently located on downtown Dunsmuir Avenue, outside of the Dunsmuir City Hall and Chamber of Commerce.

O’Grady described why the Little Free Library project was of particular interest to the Dunsmuir Rotarians: “A lot of our members are retired teachers. I work part-time in the Dunsmuir Elementary School library. And we have a lot of book lovers in our club,” she explained.

The Little Free Library movement, O’Grady said, was actually started by a Rotarian who had the idea to build the very first Little Free Library community book exchange. Since then, the Little Free Library community book exchange movement has become an international nonprofit organization known as, and has inspired the building and installing of tens of thousands of little free libraries in communities all over the world.

The usage motto for the Little Free Libraries, which is “Take a Book, Leave a Book,” has been proven to work remarkably well. O’Grady said, “The idea is that the community keeps it going.” O’Grady explained that although the Rotary Club members are the stewards of their Little Free Library, it has already become fully self-sustaining. “It’s really been fun to see,” she added.

Ron McCloud, owner of the Dunsmuir Hardware store, walks past the new Little Free Library every day on his way to and from work. McCloud said he has observed that the patrons of the Rotarian’s new Little Free Library are constantly borrowing books and restocking the Little Free library on a continual basis. He said, “I’ve even used it myself. One day recently, I was walking by and saw a book that interested me, so I took it home to read; and the next day, I brought two (of my own) books from home the next day” to leave in the little library.

O’Grady said members can even have their Little Free Library listed on the organization’s online map. So, once that part of the process is completed, the Dunsmuir Rotary Club’s Little Free Library project will officially be Dunsmuir’s first Little Free Library to be put on the map. O’Grady said, “We’re hoping this will be the first of six Little Free Libraries around town.”

Already there is a second little free library in Dunsmuir. Further down Dunsmuir Avenue, another little free library recently popped up near the bus stop, just south of Branstetter. That little free library was built and installed by Mr. John, the bus driver for Castle Rock Elementary School, during Castle Rock Elementary School’s spring break. That little free library is called, “La Petite Bibliothèque,” which is French for The Little Library. John built and installed La Petite Bibliothèque as a wedding anniversary gift for his wife, an author who speaks French. An avid reader himself, John has enjoyed seeing La Petite Bibliothèque being used daily by neighbors in the community. He said seven books were borrowed on the very first day it was stocked with books; and within just a couple of days, it had become a self-sustaining community book exchange.

By the time this issue is printed, there will have already been yet another Little Free Library built and installed by Dave Keisler, this time in Mt. Shasta. Keisler said Mt. Shasta resident, Joe Wirth, was intrigued by the Little Free Library concept when he happened to see Keisler installing the Rotary Club’s Little Free Library in front of the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce. Wirth paid him on the spot to build and install one at his house in Mt. Shasta, which will make a total of three (known) Little Free Libraries in Mt. Shasta.

The first Little Free Library registered in Mt. Shasta is hosted by Della Clark, and is located on Shasta Acres Road. Clark cites in her online description of her Little Free Library, “There is a bench beside the Little Free Library, and also a nearby garden with benches, which is generally open to the public.”

For gardeners and plant lovers, there is a little free library at the Spring Hill Nursery in Mount Shasta. The Spring Hill Nursery Lending Library, which features plant and gardening books and cookbooks, is artfully displayed atop a giant planter, surrounded by beautiful plants.

Jim and Donna Mathwig have been stewards of their Little Free Library in Weed for six years now. In an interview with Donna Mathwig, director of Choices in Mt. Shasta, Mathwig said, “The whole idea is to promote literacy.” Mathwig said she calls it a “community bumping space” where neighbors can meet and get to know one another. Mathwig stated that “statistics show that neighborhoods are safer when neighbors know one another.” She added, “Anything we can do to facilitate community – neighbors getting to know each other –that’s what we’re about.” Speaking about her concern for her local community, Mathwig said, “Where we live there (near the college) in Weed, there’s a lot of economically-challenged folks. I know that a lot of even college students are going hungry.” So, the Mathwigs have also installed a Little Free Food Share Box adjacent to their Little Free Library. Mathwig added, “We’re just trying to do what Jesus would do. It’s just us, and we’re caring for people.”

Typically, little free library hosts are book lovers who want to share books with their neighbors and passersby. One such rural “librarian” is Linda Moscovitch, who lives along the Klamath River. She and her husband, Bruce, had a “Book Box” built and installed at the road in front of their house. Linda said she enjoys trying to keep their Book Box stocked with books that match the literary interests of her neighbors. Patrons of the little Book Box leave comments in a notebook inside the Book Box, to let her know what kinds of books they enjoy reading, and to thank her for the free community book exchange she is providing in their remote neck of the woods.

Although the website claims that there now over 80,000 Little Free Libraries around the globe, that doesn’t even include the countless other, renegade little free libraries (like Dunsmuir’s “La Petite Bibliothèque” or the “Book Box” on Hwy. 96, near the Klamath River) which provide free access to books in communities far and wide, outside the network.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Little Free Library movement since that first Rotarian installed the very first Little Free Library. And May 17 is the Little Free Library’s nonprofit birthday. To celebrate the birthday and 10th anniversary of the Little Free Library movement, book lovers around the world are invited to visit a Little Free Library this weekend.

Book lovers throughout Siskiyou County are already engaged in several Little Free Library community book exchanges. Finding Little Free Libraries is the book-lovers’ equivalent to geocaching – a sort of treasure hunt for bibliophiles.

The libraries are at the following locations:

Dunsmuir Rotary Club’s Little Free Library on downtown Dunsmuir Avenue, in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

La Petite Bibliothèque on Dunsmuir Avenue, near the bus stop, just south of Branstetter Avenue.

Little Free Library, Charter #7266, at 1520 Shasta Acres Road in Mount Shasta, hosted by Della Clark

Spring Hill Nursery Lending Library at Spring Hill Nursery in Mount Shasta

Jim & Donna Mathwig’s Little Free Library, Charter #5486, at 503 Walnut St., near C.O.S., on the corner of Walnut and Phelps in Weed

Little Free Library at 551 N. Main St. in Yreka

In Horse Creek at Bruce & Linda’s “Book Box” at 38936 Highway 96