Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs and Routt County already enjoy a reputation for fine libraries, and now, two new libraries have popped up seemingly overnight – one in Old Town Steamboat and another in West Steamboat. Both are apt to be the smallest libraries you’ve ever visited, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t special.
Steamboat Springs High School senior Izzy Mumm is the steward of a Little Free Library at the intersection of Missouri, Seventh and Laurel streets near Soda Creek Elementary School in Steamboat. And Mary Nilsson is the steward of another Little Free Library in the Silver Spur neighborhood just west of the city.
Little Free Libraries are a phenomenon anchored by a nonprofit of the same name. but they are just as much an international movement, which has caught on in developing nations as well as in North America.
Perhaps it’s because they are so small that almost anyone can create one. Or maybe, it’s because they depend entirely on the honors system. It’s readily apparent that they can define a community comprising just a few blocks of homes.
The original Little Free Library was created by a Wisconsin man, Todd Bol, to honor his mother, a teacher. The goal was to inspire the creation of 2,150 miniature libraries to match the number of libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie around the turn of the 20th century.
The typical Little Free Library is small enough to sit on a fencepost and has no staff other than a volunteer steward. The libraries operate on a simple concept: Take a book...leave a book.
“Ironically, I’m not a huge reader,” Nilsson said. “Little Free Libraries are driven not just by a love of reading but by a sense of community. And I felt this might be where conversations get started.”
The first book Nilsson borrowed from her new library is “Eat This, Not That.”
Mumm agreed with Nilsson that enhancing a sense of community in a neighborhood is one of the most appealing aspects of a Little Free Library.
“It provides a chance for education, which is very important to developing countries,” Mumm said.
A voracious reader who took advanced placement English as a junior at Steamboat Springs High School, Mumm was inspired to tackle the library project by Sureva Towler, a longtime friend of her mother, Carla.
Mumm said the first books she placed in the new library were pre-teen fairy tale books like “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine, which influenced her as a young girl.
The Library in Old Town is at the intersection of Missouri, Seventh and Laurel Streets on property owned by David Patterson and artist Lance Whitner, who painted the little library's exterior.
The Little Free Library in Silver Spur is located at the end of Purple Sage Street, next to the playground.
The fact that many Little Free Library creators have chosen to customize their pint-sized repositories of knowledge only makes them more appealing. The Old Town library built by Izzy’s father, Ed Mumm, is a brightly striped replica of an historic sheep wagon. The library in Silver Spur is a dead ringer for the famous More Barn just off Pine Grove Road.
The Silver Spur library was built by neighborhood woodworker Bob Chiampa. Charlie Parnell put Chiampa together with Bob Rowe of Alpine Heating and Sheet Metal who knew the right technique for giving the barn’s metal roof a vintage appearance.
Other materials were donated by Jerry and Sandy Schwindy. Doug Baker and his team at the Steamboat II Metro District came up with a post for the barn to sit on and installed it.
Today, there are more than 6,000 Little Free Libraries around the world and people have the option of paying a fee to register their libraries, thereby establishing their GPS coordinates on a Web-based map. The nonprofit's Web page answers common questions about how to start your own library.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1