Jo Ann Jaacks: Little Free Library Book Woman treks across America

Rose Buckens aboard a locomotive at the Thomaston Train Station.

Myself and Rose Buckens, are now official partners through Little Free Library at StoneHill with the global phenomenon that has registered 85,000+ lending library boxes in 72 countries.

A year ago, I reached out to Ann Nyberg, the longest-serving female news anchor/reporter in Connecticut television history. Ann hosts her own show which she developed to get people’s stories out to the masses on air and online. She has interviewed the most famous and every day folks. Rose and I were blessed, and insanely happy, that she believed we had a good story to tell.

In 2009 Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother; a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books, put it on a post in his front yard, and thrilled neighbors and friends with the idea of free books. He envisioned opportunities to achieve several goals for the common good — the Little Free Library project would use volunteers and donors to build literacy as well as boxes on poles.

Bol’s early vision for an accelerated expansion came as a result of giving away 30 Little Free Libraries. Rose and I have taken that concept to heart and we have “planted” 50+ Little Free Libraries throughout the Litchfield Hills. When Todd Bol visited us a short time before he died, spending two exhaustive days driving around to visit as many boxes as possible, he told us, “You have 50 now and you should have 500 in a year.”

With the support of many volunteers, including carpenters, roofers, boy scouts, artists, the generosity of many donators, and a growing base of enthusiasts, that vision is being realized. Our appearance on Ann’s show, during a sleeting rainstorm in downtown New Haven, where we had to grab and run with our Show & Tell — a Little Free Library painted in a library shelf motif — was a joyous experience.

The next day, I received a message from someone I had recently met at a school event, asking if her school could get a Little Free Library. Our answer to that is always an exuberant “Yes!” We had already provided one to a pre-school in Waterbury, painted with pandas, the school mascot, and one to a charter school also in Waterbury. We are now fast-tracking to get 10+ in Torrington schools and 30+ in Waterbury schools.

Of course, nonprofit endeavors require fundraising, so Rose and I, along with Justina Aylmer, one of our wonderful volunteers, are hosting a two-day open house welcoming the public to StoneHill, 118 Main Street in Morris on May 17 and May 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is part of the 10-year Anniversary Celebration of Little Free Library, and a fundraiser for future #TheBookWomanTrainsAcrossAmerica Amtrak trips to continue Todd Bol’s mission to build community and enhance literacy.

Activities will include sharing books, storytelling, bookmark-making, a bake sale and painting party. Donations, which are not required but happily accepted, would be books, baked goods, painting supplies, solar lights for little free library boxes, and the talents of designers, builders/craftsmen, painters, and computer tech-savvy volunteers.

Monetary donations can be made at any time by visiting https://bit.ly/2JiVI65 and Rose Buckens can be contacted at rosebuckensdesigns@yahoo.com.

Connecticut Media Group