Mary Masterton shares love of books|
|Mary Masterton has nurtured a love of reading over a lifetime, and now she’s sharing it with friends and neighbors along Fifth Avenue and Hudson Street.|
With help from her daughter, Samantha, Mary has established Mary’s Free Library, a free book exchange located in a tidy and very decorative little box outside her home at 335 Fifth Ave.
“I think its adorable,” Masterton says of her library, which includes flower boxes, a flagpole and even a bench for sitting and enjoying a book. “People do come and go and enjoy the books.”
Little Free Library is basically a “take a book, return a book” concept, where neighbors gather to share their favorite literature and stories.
Masterton has loads of books of her own, and also has a steady supply courtesy of her parish, Universal Unitarian Church in Wausau. The church received a boost from the Antigo Public Library, which donated books left over after their summer sale.
“We’ve got a great selection,” she says, “some really popular authors.”
There are other benefits as well. Masterton placed the library where she can view it from her home, and it has provided a steady source of enjoyment.
“I see people come and browse through the books. They take them and put others back,” she said. “They are going and I am happy for that.”
She can also tell who is going to stop, and who isn’t.
“The exercise people, they don’t even notice it. They are too intent,” she says. “That’s part of the fun too.”
Little Free Libraries date to 2009, when Todd Bol of Hudson built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said free books.
Rick Brooks of Madison, whom he met at a seminar on promoting green practices and a vibrant local economy for Hudson, entered the picture as a colleague exploring potential social enterprises. The two saw opportunities to achieve a wide variety of goals for the common good.
By the summer of 2010 the mission and purposes served by Bol’s first construction were becoming more clear. The original models had all been built with recycled materials. Each was unique but all shared the theme of exchanging good books and bringing people together for something positive.
The website, at www.littlefreelibrary.org., and a cadre of volunteers made it possible to expand the organizational reach beyond the co-founders to a movement centered in the enthusiasm and commitment of stewards who hosted and often built their own neighborhood Libraries.
The year 2011 brought local, regional and national media attention to the backyard project that had become a movement. With nearly 400 Little Free Libraries across the U.S. by the end of the year, the founders knew it was time to become a formal, independent organization. In May, 2012, Little Free Library was officially established as a Wisconsin nonprofit corporation with a board of directors. In September, the Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt status.
Antigo is enjoying the concept.
“I like to read,” Masterton says. “I love the idea of helping someone really learn to love reading. Everyone says this it is darling.”
By the end of this year, organizers estimate there will be 15,000 Little Free Libraries in 55 countries.
Mary Masterton at her Little Free Library, an adorable and useful addition to her yard at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Hudson Street.
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