Building community through books. On left, Little Free Library in front of GHBC. On right, top shows the residents who built the book sharing box. Bottom shows a member of the community choosing a book from the Little Free Library.

Live with Purpose - November 23, 2021

Building Community Through Books: Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads’ “Little Free Library”

By Amanda Ranowsky

Having a sense of community is fundamental to our shared human experience. Throughout life, we connect with others through a range of communities – our neighborhoods, our hobbies, our places of worship, our schools, our workplaces. Residents at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC) recently tapped into another powerful community builder: books.

Sharing a passion for reading and books can lead to wonderful connections. My best friend and I began our friendship enthusing over a book – one that none of our other friends had read. People from all over the world and all walks of life can be united by a single story because it gives them common ground on which to build a connection. That shared knowledge and interest can be the spark for creating a community.

As much as we build a sense of community within our Life Plan Communities and throughout our organization, Goodwin Living also seeks to develop relationships with the wider community around us.

GHBC residents and art instructor stand next to little free library in front of GHBC
Bob Lassiter (left), Adrienne Wyman (middle) and Ron Karpick (right) stand next to the Little Free Library in front of GHBC.

We achieve this through corporate-led efforts such as assisting the Campagna Center with COVID-19 testing, and through resident-led efforts like weaving mats for people without homes. This fall, Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC) residents made another effort toward community building with our nearby neighbors. If you visit the sidewalk along South Jefferson Street just in front of our building, you will now see a small, house-shaped repository full of books – what is known as a Little Free Library.

A Simple Concept for Sharing Books

The first Little Free Library book-sharing box was built in 2009. Since then, the movement has grown into a national nonprofit organization whose mission is “to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries.”

With small, free libraries rising in popularity during the pandemic, the organization now reports more than 100,000 registered book sharing boxes across the nation.

The Little Free Library concept is simple: set up a waterproof box with a glass door somewhere easily accessible to the neighborhood and fill it with books to share. Ideally, when someone removes a book from the library, they will replace it with another book, ensuring the library is always stocked with an ever-changing variety of titles.

If you visit the Little Free Library website, you can find a map with locations of book sharing boxes across the nation. The GHBC box will soon appear alongside five other boxes in our zip code alone.

Creating the GHBC Little Free Library

GHBC resident Nancy Simpson first encountered a Little Free Library in her Brooklyn, New York neighborhood in 2018. When she moved to GHBC in 2019, she brought the idea with her.

“At a luncheon hosted by Goodwin Living Chief Operating Officer Linda Lateana over the summer, I mentioned my experience with Little Free Libraries in our Brooklyn neighborhood,” said Nancy. “Linda made a note of my suggestion that Goodwin Living place a Little Free Library near the sidewalk for our neighbors to use as they walk by. I was thinking particularly of nearby families with children, because when I was in Brooklyn, I often found wonderful books for our grandchildren at the Little Free Library on our street. All of us at Goodwin Living have books overcrowding our shelves, and our grandchildren have books we have given them that they have outgrown. And our neighbors in nearby apartments may have books they wish to contribute, too.”

GHBC residents building Little Free Library
GHBC residents Bob Lassiter (left) and Ron Karpick (right) in the woodshop, building the Little Free Library.

Intrigued by the idea, Linda shared it with Recreation Coordinator Adrienne Wyman, who runs the art studio and classes at GHBC. “I started asking the residents who are woodworkers if any of them would be interested in helping us build our own Little Free Library, and two of them took the idea and ran with it,” said Adrienne. “Ron Karpick and Bob Lassiter looked up patterns online, and quickly had the library built and painted. They did a fantastic job.”

With the help of GHBC Grounds Supervisor Nathan Neufer, the GHBC Little Free Library was installed by the sidewalk at the front of our campus. Located between a bus stop and a shopping center, it’s sure to get a fair amount of foot traffic.

Nancy and her husband Bob have volunteered to manage monitoring the library’s stock levels, which will be supported by resident donations. Other residents are working to get the word out to encourage donations and spread participation from the wider community.

To Nancy, managing the Little Free Library will not feel like a chore. “In Brooklyn, the Little Free Library made me feel part of the community,” she said. “I thought the Little Library was something GHBC could share with our community, all of us giving and taking free books. What could be more fun?”

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As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin Living Incorporated to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining GHI, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.

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