The newest feature at A.B. Combs Elementary School may look like an oversized birdhouse, but it’s actually home to a collection of books.
The tiny library holds two shelves of picture and chapter books, and anyone can take a book – or two or three – anytime they like. The hope is readers will share a book of their own, too.
The library is one of more than 10,000 that have sprung up in communities around the world in recent years through the Wisconsin-based “Little Free Library” group. A handful are scattered throughout the Triangle.
The nonprofit group offers advice on setting up a library, sells premade libraries for communities that choose not to build their own and tracks the growing network of libraries. Each community can tweak the model as it needs to, but the goal is to create a gathering place where community members can share books with one another.
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Leigh Sanders, the steward of the library at A.B. Combs, was immediately captivated by the idea of adding a Little Free Library to her neighborhood when she read about the project a few years ago.
After a long search, Sanders settled on the school as a perfect location. Her husband, Thompson Brown, pitched in to build the library, and they installed it just a few weeks ago at the corner of Lorimer and Merwin roads. Sanders shopped at garage sales and used book stores to stock the library for its debut, focusing on books that would appeal to elementary school students.
Sanders said she hopes it will be one more way for children to discover new stories and share the ones they already love with their classmates and neighbors.
“It will allow for children to be able to get books on their own time,” she said.
She also hopes it will be a welcome distraction for parents as they wait in the carpool line. The library is on the edge of the school’s playing field, under the shade of a tree, where families already gather to chat and wait for their children’s day to end.
Sanders stressed that children can take a book even if they haven’t returned one yet, or take more than one if they would like.
The library already has won some loyal fans.
Kate Clark, a fourth-grader at A.B. Combs, has borrowed and read “Kate and the Beanstalk,” “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig” and more since it opened.
“When I read, it’s like I’m in another universe, and the different characters have different voices,” she said.
Clark said she likes the convenience of the library. Anytime she’s in the mood for a new book, she’s free to pick one out.
“Do you know one of the best parts? I don’t think it’s ever locked,” she said.