Give and take. Advocates of the Little Free Library build on that simple idea to spread literacy and build community.
Here's how it works: A water-proof box with a door that can latch is placed where people come and go. Books go in. People take one and share one of their own.
Lexington's third Little Free Library opened Tuesday.
Looking like a Seussian birdhouse fit for a pelican, a Little Free Library is the latest addition to the colorful chaos on the patio of Lexington's Third Street Stuff at 257 North Limestone.
Owner Pat Gerhard said having a Little Free Library was a natural fit for her eclectic eatery, coffee shop and store.
Sharing books "is such a friendly thing to do," said Gerhard, who is known for her shock of red hair and day-glo style. "It's warm and cuddly."
The idea for Little Free Library in Lexington came from Betsy Adler, who loves sharing books with her sister who'd sent her an email with a link to LittleFreeLibrary.org. Inspired by what others were doing, Adler took the idea to the YMCA where she volunteers.
There are Little Free Libraries in 45 states and 11 countries. The boxes had previous lives as everything from cranberry crates (in Maine), to red telephone booths (in England) to newspaper boxes (in Los Angeles.) The goal of the group is to build "at least 2,510 little libraries, the same number as philanthropist Andrew Carnegie," its Web site states.
Adler is giddy at the prospect of the idea catching on in Lexington.
"I think it's the best idea to come along, as you can tell," she told the small crowd gathered at Tuesday's "book opening" and ribbon-cutting ceremony. "I'm really passionate about it."
"Young or old, it's for anybody in the community," she said.
Talking about what you're reading is a way to start a conversation with neighbors, co-workers or people you pass every day, she said. Today, too many people know the names of the neighborhood dogs better than the names of their neighbors, she added.
Wendi Keene, executive director of community services at the YMCA, said her group organized Tuesday's ceremony and is helping get the word out about the Little Free Library. But, she said, "this is not a Y project", she said, "this is a community project."
Church groups, civic groups, even cul-de-sacs can open their own Little Free Library, she said. Other Lexington locations are Lexington Fire Station No. 5 on Woodland Avenue and the North Lexington YMCA on Loudon Avenue near the head of the Legacy Trail.
Kits to build the library are available through LittleFreeLibrary.org, which is a non-profit. It costs $25 to register your little library site, which is then listed on the Web.
Jill Peterson and her twin, David, were the first official users of the Third Street Stuff library. Jill, 7, then read from one of her favorite books, Curious George at the Fire Station. Standing before the opening-day crowd, a microphone lowered to her height, her blond hair tied in a ponytail, she read nearly all the story in a gentle yet confident voice. She didn't reveal the end on purpose, Keene said.
To learn the fate of that wacky monkey who got behind the wheel of the firetruck, come get the book, she said, and bring one to share.