May 16, 2016
By: Katie Egan


Take a book, share a book, and leave a book


Within 24 hours, Anne Devoe-Garcia donated 20 to 40 books to the Naples Preserve Hedges Family Eco-Center’s little wooden library.

The new pint-sized pop-up book boxes are something Neapolitans are going to be seeing a lot more of in five area parks, from the Coastland Center mall to downtown Naples.

The Little Free Library’s goal is to increase literacy and foster a love of reading, while promoting and building a sense of community.

Devoe-Garcia said she had been waiting for a cause to recycle her old books. And with three biological children and one foster child, the Naples resident had no problem finding plenty of old works lying around, gathering dust, waiting for a new lease on life.

“I filled two small shopping bags varying in size and thickness,” she said.

One bag, full of little kids books, was big and chunky. The other was smaller and lighter. It contained thin, paperback books geared toward first graders.

The Little Free Libraries that sprung up in Naples parks last week are a tucked away treasure.

Full of books for all ages, the pop-up libraries have a simple concept.

Take a book, leave a book and share a book.

“I can’t think of anything more important than teaching a child to read,” said Naples City Council member, Sam Saad.

“If this little bit of effort helps children to be able to read better and to share books,” he said. “I’d like it to become a huge success.”

The little libraries are installed near playgrounds at Anthony Park, River Park Community Center, Cambier Park and Fleischmann Park, in addition to a box at the Naples Preserve.

(See an interactive map for a more detailed look.)

“No one knows they’re there,” said Naples resident Darryl Belfry, who visited the library at Fleishmann Park on a recent afternoon. “Everyone comes to the park with their kids. It’s so smart.”

The library boxes, made out of pine and cedar wood, were built to house several dozen books behind a Plexiglass door.

On Friday, Cambier Park’s box held about 60 books, a healthy mix of thin kids books on the bottom shelf and young adult books placed on top. Fleishmann Park’s box held about 75 children’s books.

Parks and Recreation Manager, Jennifer Fox, brought the Little Free Library concept to Naples after attending a conference last month.

By January, the nonprofit Little Free Library website registered more than 36,000 pop-up book nooks, according to the organization’s website. The next closest locale is in Bonita Springs.

The city’s five library boxes each cost $200 to make and each took a little over a day to build, said Facilities Maintenance Supervisor, Dirk Rollins.

“We tried to set them up so children could have access to them,” he said.

The boxes are four feet tall and three feet wide.

Devoe-Garcia hopes the Little Free Libraries give the community at large a new perspective on reading.

“We have great libraries,” she said. “And we read at schools. I don’t mean replace that context, but maybe give kids a new one.”

Since the Little Free Libraries inception last week, the Collier County Public Library has agreed to stock the free pop-up bookshops with 200 books a month.

“It’s a great way to recycle books,” said Collier County Public Library director, Valerie Kocin.

Kocin said reading comprehension for children is better from a paperback book than it is from an electronic source.

“There’s nothing that feels like a book,” she said. “Here they are in a park setting. They can take a moment to read with mom, dad, whomever, friends. It’s the combination of being out in the open and having access to a book.”

It’s also ultra convenient.

“It’s not a library book. They don’t have to worry about it,” Kocin said. “They can keep it.”

Devoe-Garcia hopes she can show her kids parks are much more than sliding down slides or seeing who can go faster on the monkey bars.

“They might not think to read or have a book there,” she said. “Parks are a place to go for playing but its ok to go there to read, too.”

A lot of the times, parents bring kids to the playground to tire them out, Belfry said. But after they’re done playing, they can relax and regroup with a book.

“Frankly, you can get every book on the planet on an iPad,” he said.

With the Little Free Library, kids have full control over where their imagination takes them.

“It allows them to foster their own intelligence.”

Ruth Belfry agrees.

“If you got four or five kids to learn to read from that,” she said. “It did its job.”


Click here for more by Katie Egan