June 26, 2022

Colorado authors find readers and book clubs by ‘bombarding small free libraries with books’ – The Denver Post

Colorado authors Harper McDavid and Melissa Payne aren’t inclined to consider their weekend pursuits a pioneering boon.

“Retail sales aren’t good right now and like any product, books are hurting,” McDavid said this week between visits to small free libraries in the metro area. “Also, Melissa and I are newbie authors, so this is another way for us to gain exposure.”

In fact, it’s one of the only ways. With most bookstores and libraries closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic, first-time authors McDavid and Payne turned to Little Free Libraries — those craft outposts of honor system reading — to distribute and promote their work.

“Zapata,” McDavid’s thriller set along the Texas-Mexico border, won the romance category at the 2020 Colorado Authors’ League Writers Awards and the 2020 Colorado Book Awards. It’s now part of a Colorado’s League of Authors’ “book bombing” program, which initially marked July 27 through August 2 to canvass small free libraries across the state, restocking them with new and original works by writers from around the Colorado.

The campaign has proven so popular that McDavid and Payne are extending it beyond the original one-week window and through the end of August, while also inviting other writing groups to join. them. It caught the attention of the Little Free Library headquarters in Hudson, Wisconsin, who consider it a one-of-a-kind experience.

“The book bombing has been done, no doubt, and the authors have done it individually,” said Greig Metzger, executive director of Little Free Library, which has about 100,000 registered and deposited boxes worldwide. “But I don’t know of any program anywhere that officially organizes authors to do this.”

More than two dozen Colorado authors have already planted their works in the Book Sharing Boxes, which cost around $40 to officially register with Little Free Library. Registering with the organization adds a nameplate and a place on the world location map at littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap, as well as connecting stewards (like individual owners, all volunteers are called) with resources.

Denver residents, in particular, have been exceptionally friendly to small free libraries, which tend to dot residential (and, less frequently) commercial sidewalks as birdhouses offering snacks to curious readers. In 2017, the Mile High City won the City of Distinction award from the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

“We’ve been watching Denver for a long time and (it’s) done wonderful things,” said Little Free Library founder Todd Bol, who traveled to Colorado to present the award to the lieutenant governor’s office and other others at the time. “Denver is one of our major cities in the country, right up there with LA”

Even then, Metro Denver had more than 500 small free libraries, building on the handful that began popping up in late 2011 and early 2012 — and quickly outnumbering the numbers in major cities such as Boston, New York, and Seattle. Bol established Wisconsin’s first small free library in 2009; now there are about 1,200 in Colorado, Metzger said — not counting unregistered versions.

Regardless of its success, the project will bring nothing to its authors or their publishers, and it depends on donations from individuals and publishers. But for many authors, just being read and liked is a gift right now.

“It’s a win-win situation as far as we’re concerned,” said McDavid, who has watched traditional libraries struggle to keep up with the demand to borrow books. “I volunteer at the Jefferson County Public Library, and even if you ask for a book, it takes forever to get to you right now. So this is a way for us to give back to the community and put out a little.

While the distribution amounts to only a book or two per day, per author, the program is already producing results. The first book given by McDavid contained a bookmark with his contact information. A few hours later, someone contacted her asking if they could get copies of “Zapata” for a book club.

“It’s like a dream,” she said. “We are promoting (the programme) on social media and ideally we will reach out to other authors in places like the UK as these (libraries) are all over the world and we would like to see this grow. “

“We thank the Little Free Library organization for their partnership and support,” Lisa Reinicke, co-chair and writer for the Colorado Authors’ League, who came up with the idea, said in a press release. “CAL encourages readers of all ages to visit a small free library today and enjoy new summer reading from the Colorado Authors’ League.”

An article in the Colorado Springs Gazette promoting the program also immediately generated phone calls to the Colorado Authors’ League, said co-chair Barb Lundy, a member for 15 years.

“We had about 50 to 60 interested authors, but we only had a week to do it,” Lundy said. “Now that Harper is pushing it to a whole month, we’re preparing other giveaways, like a bilingual book of writing tips and prompts for 1st grades in college. … At least half of the people in (the Colorado Authors League) have also taught in school, so we feel like we can create a small army to reach those kids stuck at home.

Although Metgzer is unable to track the number of overall visits to small free libraries, he said anecdotal evidence has shown a huge increase in their use since mid-March, with more books going out than returning. . He said the way stewards have responded to the pandemic shows the unique place small free libraries hold in their communities.

“People have (stockpiled) them with stable food, face masks and personal toiletries in addition to books,” he said. “They’ve become little beacons of engagement, and luckily they don’t need to interact with another person.”

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