Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For the love of reading: Faribault’s east side now home to a little library August 6, 2012

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Pat Rice’s little library, right, installed about a month ago in her front yard, 713 Ravine Street, Faribault.

PAT RICE LOVES TO READ. That passion, short and simple, inspired this retired audiologist to recently install a little library in her front yard on Faribault’s east side.

Hers is among four little libraries—one officially registered as a Little Free Library—now gracing neighborhoods in my community.

The little library seems a natural outreach for this woman who reads 100-plus books a year, belongs to a local book club, accepts donations for the American Association of University Women, Faribault chapter’s annual book sale, and serves on the Buckham Memorial Library Advisory Board.

The Smiths’ Little Free Library, located in their yard at 825 Sixth Ave. SW.

It was her connection with another library board member, Joan Smith, that led to the establishment of Faribault’s first Little Free Library last fall. Pat read an article about a little library and passed the story along to Joan whose husband, Dale, crafts elaborate birdhouses. Dale adapted his birdhouse pattern and built a little library which is posted on a corner of the Smiths’ southwest Faribault front yard. It’s open 24/7 to anyone who wants to take and/or leave a book.

And now, thanks to Dale’s efforts, Pat has a near-duplicate little library in her front yard at 713 Ravine Street.

The books recently stashed in Pat’s little library.

She’s stocked it with mostly a variety of paperbacks (adults tends to favor romances and mysteries, she says), several cookbooks and some children’s books. Pat plans to add more children’s books, even though few kids live in her neighborhood.

But she enjoys children’s books. “I love the illustrations,” says this long-time reader who remembers, as a four-year-old, stretching on her tiptoes to print her name on her first library card at the Camden Library in Minneapolis. That marked a memorable moment for a preschooler whose family had no extra money for books. Acquiring that orange library card—yes she remembers the color—allowed her access to thousands of books, fostering a life-long love of reading.

To this day, Pat still appreciates, and buys, children’s books. She has a little library full of them in the upstairs of her stately brick home. That stash includes a collection of 40 ABC themed titles. Among her favorites are the books of Grand Marais author and illustrator Betsy Bowen who specializes in woodblock prints.

Whenever Pat needs a baby gift, she gives a book.

There’s no doubting this woman’s passion for books. She doesn’t have a television, at least not one that’s plugged in. “I would rather read,” says Pat. She counts Jan Karon, Thomas Gifford and Minnesotan John Sanford among her favorite writers. On a recent 20-hour trip to Virginia, she and a friend listened to four books on audio.

Dale Smith built Pat’s little library, which is open to anyone. Pick up or drop off a book if you’re walking or driving by.

Now she’s hoping the little library in her front yard will encourage others to read due its easy accessibility. “I think there’s a lot of people who don’t use libraries,” Pat says. She cites a story shared by Dale Smith about a man who chose a Zane Grey book from the Smiths’ Little Free Library. It was the first book the man had read in 40 years.

For a voracious reader like Pat, that’s encouraging and reaffirms her reasons for establishing a little library in her east Faribault neighborhood.

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FYI: I plan to scout out the other little libraries in Faribault and post about them in addition to updating you on the LFL installed in my hometown of Vesta a month ago by Todd Bol, co-founder of the Little Free Library project.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling