When the world shut down, Zoe Wolfus was, according to her dad, “bummed that the town libraries closed,” too. So the pair painted an old veterinary surgical cabinet and filled it with books for their neighborhood, creating a little free library (LFL)—and a social distance-friendly nook that naturally built a sense of community.
Neighbors were taking and contributing books almost daily, says Greg Wolfus, clinical associate professor for the Tufts at Tech Community Veterinary Clinic. So he brought the idea to Tufts at Tech, stocking his LFL shelves with books leaving circulation at Cummings’ Webster Family Library, those he buys personally, and those donated by users. “Every day clients read while waiting for their appointments and oftentimes go home with a book or two,” he says.
Wolfus adds: “I’d like to live in a world where people are kind, and information and joy are available for everyone.”
With just one little library, that joy has spread to the student center, where colleagues Leslie Sharkey and John Bourgeois are in the midst of setting up a second post.
A need for non-academic materials has been articulated to Bourgeois, manager of the Webster Library. Sharkey, chair of Clinical Sciences at the, was looking to build community and encourage work-life balance in an accessible way, beyond official library hours—and as an alternative to social media. She also has LFL experience, having built one from an old phone booth for her neighborhood. “I get a ton of visitors, and people drop off more donated books than I can literally give away,” she says.
Give a book. Get a book. “The whole ethos of the movement is inspiring,” says Bourgeois.
One of the main goals for the newest LFL is diversity. Sharkey has ordered a sign in Spanish and English, and is in consult with BIPOC and LGBTQAI+ groups on campus to help fill the shelves with representational literature in multiple languages. The wish list is long, and also includes audiobooks for those with commutes, but all involved are sure donations from the community will come in.
“I have found the Cummings community to be generous with their time, expertise, connections, and most importantly patience,” says Bourgeois. “Working to further these libraries is a small way of giving back.”