By Janis Fontaine
The Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library is like a perpetual motion machine promoting a love for reading.
Friends members sell donated books in their store in the lobby of the Downtown Library and then use the money to promote reading and literacy programs, make free books available and increase the demand for books, all at the same time.
In partnership with the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District and the city’s Recreation Services, the Friends recently expanded two popular reading programs: Little Free Libraries and the StoryWalk.
A Little Free Library is a curbside box filled with books that can be borrowed at no cost by adults or kids. There’s nothing to sign, no deposit to make. People just bring the books back when they’re finished so someone else may enjoy.
“There are seven Little Free Libraries now” in Boca Raton, with three added recently, said Tracy Wasserman, president of the Friends board.
Nationally, the LFL program was started to eradicate “book deserts,” Wasserman said. A book desert is usually a rural community that has no local library or other established source of books. “There are 2,500 book deserts in the United States.”
Since the first book-sharing box was built in Minnesota in 2009, more than 250 million books have been shared through registered Little Free Libraries. The LFL organization’s vision is “a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader.”
Boca Raton’s new LFL’s are in Sugar Sand Park, 300 S. Military Trail; Patch Reef Park, 2000 Yamato Road; and at the Swim and Racquet Center, 21626 St. Andrews Blvd.
The other LFLs are at Hillsboro El Rio Park South (200 SW 18th St.), Happy Faces Library (165 NE 21st St.), Sand Pine Park (300 Newcastle St.), and the Little Free Library of Palm Beach Farms, one block east of Pine Breeze Park on Southwest 20th Street.
Find Little Free Library locations all over the United States online at www.littlefreelibrary.org — and you can even find out how to start your own.
The second project the Friends support is the StoryWalk, designed to build children’s enthusiasm for reading while encouraging healthy physical activity.
StoryWalks are nature walks in which kids stop at kiosks to read a page or two of a book (often nature-related), then move on to the next kiosk for more of the story. Kids find joy in reading as the story reveals itself bit by bit.
The first StoryWalk project was built in 2007 in Montpelier, Vermont, in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. There are now three in Boca Raton. Each StoryWalk has a different book featured and books are changed every few months, Wasserman said.
All three have been paid for by the Friends.
• The StoryWalk at Patch Reef Park, 2000 Yamato Road. Book: Dance Like a Flamingo: Learn How to Move and Groove Like the Animals Do! by Moira Butterfield (author) and Claudia Boldt (illustrator).
• The StoryWalk at Serenoa Glade Preserve at George Snow Park, 1101 NW 15th St. Book: Peep and Ducky Rainy Day by David Martin.
• The StoryWalk near the butterfly garden at the Pondhawk Natural Area on the west side of the Spanish River Library, 1501 Spanish River Blvd. Book: Croc O’Clock by Huw Lewis Jones.
The Friends’ story
The Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library is a nonprofit that has provided support to the library for decades, since the group’s founding in 1990. When a benefactor left the Friends a $300,000 bequest, the Friends gave $250,000 to the library for its expansion. The bookstore brings in between $5,000-$6,000 a month, which easily paid the $6,000 bill for the Patch Reef Park StoryWalk.
The Friends’ bookstore is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday and accepts donations until 3:30 p.m. It has books for all ages, both fiction and nonfiction, plus coffee table books, cooking and recipe books, puzzles and games, and audiobooks on CD.
It’s in the lobby of the Downtown Library at 400 NW Second Ave. Call 561-544-8596 or visit www.bocalibraryfriends.org/bookstore.