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‘Little Free Library’ pops up downtown

Jeffrey Alcantara of Roxbury checked out the offerings at a pop-up Little Free Library on Washington Street. John Blanding/Globe staff

Amid the bustling crowds, the shining glass windows of the reaching high-rises, and the trendy department stores and upscale restaurants that have bloomed throughout Downtown Crossing, visitors to the area have been enjoying a bit of peace and quiet, on a very small scale.

If you happen to approach them — shhhh. They might be reading.

The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, a nonprofit organization, latched on to a global phenomenon and debuted along the busy streetscape a bijou spot to find a good book: a “Little Free Library.”

When the kiosk, which is part of a pilot program, opened last week, it was lined with titles donated by the public and the nearby Brattle Book Shop.


But those managing the little library say they can barely keep it stocked.

“Books are flying off the shelves,” the group said in a tweet last week, asking for donations.

Rosemarie Sansone, president of Downtown Boston BID, said in a statement that they are trying to figure out how to keep up with the sudden demand. “The Little Free Library has proven to be so popular that within hours only a few books remained on the first day,” she said. “Fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, self-help, history — you name the category — people are taking them all.”

Downtown Crossing’s latest addition — the neighborhood is soaking up its cultural rebirth, so to speak — is part of the international Little Free Library network, a concept established in 2009 by Todd H. Bol, a Hudson, Wis., resident whose mother was a bookworm and schoolteacher. The libraries encourage borrowers to bring a book for each that they take, ensuring a steady turnover in titles.

The library is outside of Walgreens on Washington Street. The operating hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Many residents in Boston, and surrounding cities and towns, have made their own miniature libraries by hammering together slats of wood and nailing on slanted rooftops, before placing books behind glass doors, free for the taking.

The sponsored libraries can take many forms. For example, LittleFreeLibrary.org recommends recycling materials to create libraries, which often take the shape of shrunken log cabins (or “oversized birdhouses,” depending how you look at it).

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.