Book-loving family puts up community’s first box for free-exchange reading
Port Washington families have a new option when looking for books to read.
They can visit the Niederkorn Library, a repository for more than 50,0000 books, or stop at the city’s first Little Free Library, which offers a selection of volumes in a small mailbox-type structure on North Milwaukee Street.
The bright blue library box nestled between two large pine trees in the front yard of Annette and Shane Stimic’s house is filled with about 20 books that are free for the taking. All they ask is that people who take a volume replace it with another.
The couple and their children — Miles, 13, a seventh-grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and Mira, 10, a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School — built the library and are its stewards. It’s a project the family’s been working on since last fall.
“We’re such big fans of the library,” Annette Stimic said. “We love books.”
Little Free Libraries began in Hudson in 2009, when Todd Bol built a miniature one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his late mother, a teacher and bibliophile, filling it with books for others to take.
The concept spread quickly, and today there are 5,000 to 6,000 Little Free Libraries throughout the United States and 35 other countries.
According to Little Free Libraries, an estimated 1.65 million books have been borrowed from these libraries between January 2010 and January 2013.
The first Little Free Library in Ozaukee County was installed in Grafton’s Centennial Park last August, part of a program sponsored by the village’s Public Arts Board. It was the 1,718th registered Little Free Library in the United States.
The Stimics’ Little Free Library is the first in Port Washington.
The family had seen little libraries around the Milwaukee area and were inspired by Bookworm Gardens, a fanciful garden inspired by literature that is located on the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan campus, Stimic said.
The family discussed the idea of a Little Free Library throughout the fall and winter, building it out of primarily recycled materials. The door, Stimic noted, is a picture frame and the post a piece of wood that the family found washed up on the Lake Michigan shore in Port.
“The kids really worked on it, putting it together and painting it,” she said. “They were very excited about having their own little library.”
The family filled the library with books from their own collection, many of them classics and favorite stories they’ve enjoyed through the years, Stimic said.
“We’re book hogs. We have lots of books we’ve collected over the years,” she said. “We have the e-reader, but we love to open a real book. There’s nothing like it.”
Miles, she said, loves old books, particularly those that involve outdoor adventures and survival stories. Her husband shares Miles’ taste in books.
Mira enjoys cooking adventures and sports-themed books.
“I end up reading more non-fiction,” Stimic said, as well as Christian books and classics.
It wasn’t easy to decide which books to place in the library, Stimic said, but the task was made easier knowing that now others can enjoy them.
“I was trying to clear the house a little bit, and it was hard to part with some of those,” she said. “There are definitely books they’re not going to part with. But some are doubles, some are books we got during the library sales.”
The Stimic’s Little Free Library has been open for about three weeks, and while it’s attracted some interest, there hasn’t been a lot of borrowing — in part because she only recently put up a sign telling people what it’s about.
“There are definitely people who have stopped and looked at it,” Stimic said. “I don’t think people initially were quite sure what to do, though.
“My neighbor said, ‘Oh, you put up a new mailbox.’”
That’s sure to change as the community becomes more familiar with the Little Free Library.
The Stimics have applied to register their library with the Little Free Library organization, a move that will put them on the group’s map, which is accessible online.
The library is already listed on the Niederkorn Library’s website.
“I think it’s a fun idea,” Library Director David Nimmer said. “We had no idea it was going up, but that’s kind of the way we envisioned a little library, as a grassroots movement.”
The library will support the effort, giving the Stimics access to books collected by the Friends of the Library before the annual book sale to help stock it, Nimmer said.
Stimic said her children plan to host an open house once their Little Free Library is registered with the host organization.
The Stimics’ Little Free Library may not be the only one in town for long.
The Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club is considering sponsoring Little Free Libraries as a project for Boy Scouts in Troop 837, which it sponsors, to earn their woodworking merit badge.
Image Information: PORT WASHINGTON’S FIRST Little Free Library was created by (from left) Miles Stimic, 13, his parents Annette and Shane and sister Mira, 10. The bright blue library is nestled between pine trees in front of the family’s North Milwaukee Street. Photo by Sam Arendt