Little Free Libraries have become a convenient resource for people to grab some reading materials on the go.
Besides being a pubic resource, the small roadside book repositories located throughout the Lake Geneva region also have themselves become works of art.
Designers of the miniature libraries have crafted their colorful, roof-shingled structures to look like race cars, schoolhouses, sailboats and other artistic expressions.
“I wanted the colors to be alive and exciting, just like a book,” designer Jodi Lauer said.
Lauer’s miniature library was installed last summer outside the First Congregational United Church of Christ of Lake Geneva at 715 Wisconsin St., in the city’s downtown.
Shaped like a schoolhouse, the structure is painted in bright red, blue, yellow, green and purple colors with the words “Little Free Library” painted above a small door that holds the books inside.
The idea behind Little Free Libraries is to encourage reading in a way that is more convenient for borrowers. and also to promote an atmosphere of free exchange of ideas and information.
Over the past 10 years or so, the tiny structures, typically mounted on a fence post, have turned up outside businesses, churches and homes. Patrons can either borrow or contribute at their leisure.
Other Little Free Libraries in Lake Geneva are located near the Simple Cafe restaurant, Central-Denison Elementary School and the VISIT Lake Geneva visitor center on the lakefront.
Linda Ahnert, a member of the First Congregational United, said church members at first considered a mini-library that looked like a church, but they instead decided to create a schoolhouse design that looked more modern.
“We wanted it to look a little more current and available to everybody,” Ahnert said. “It’s not related to the church. We’re just sponsoring it.”
The library can hold about 35 books. Nearby schools have donated books that they no longer use.
Borrowers are welcome to use a book as long as they like.
Skip Atwell, who assembled the libary, said he was proud of the church’s outreach.
“Anything we can do to get people excited about reading is good,” Atwell said.
Across town, Anders Haldorsen constructed a Little Free Library two years ago in his leadership dynamics class at Badger High School.
Haldorsen painted the library green with white trim to resemble a popular color scheme for race cars during the 1950s and ‘60s.
“I was really big into cars, particularly the older ones,” Haldorsen said. “So, I thought that might look nice for a Little Free Library.”
The miniature library ended up in city-owned Westgate Tot Lot park, located across the street from his childhood home on Miller Court in Lake Geneva.
“I figured the park was the perfect place to put it,” he said.
Since Haldorsen moved on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison after graduating high school, his mother, Teresa Haldorsen, has taken over responsibility of the Little Free Library.
Teresa Haldorsen said the library seems to get a lot of use among neighborhood residents and visitors. She new books regularly and is considering doing some maintenance work on the structure, including re-shingling the roof.
“Really, it’s held up really well,” she said. “I know the latches are a little rusty, but that’s from the Wisconsin weather. But this summer, I think it needs a little touch up.”
Another mini-library is located outside of the Nine Lives Boutique store at 835 Geneva St. in Lake Geneva.
The store’s library is painted red in the design of a sailboat on a lake.
Store owner Jan Beardsley said the library was donated about three years ago by a business owner across the street whose landlord did not want the tiny library there.
Beardsley said the library holds about 30 books, which often include mysteries, novels and children’s books. She said the books often are donated by store customers.
It has created a convenient place for someone to relax and enjoy a little reading.
“In the summer, we put a table and chair in front of the shop, and the husbands who are waiting for their wives grab a book, sit down, read and drink coffee,” she said.
Beardsley said people can check out a book for as long as they want.
“The lending library is open to anybody,” Beardsley said. “They can come and take what they want to use.”
Outside the Simple Cafe restaurant at 525 Broad St., the mini-library is repainted different designs on a regular basis.
Restaurant owner Tom Hartz, who also is Lake Geneva mayor, said a restaurant manager came up with the idea of establishing the Little Free Library about four years ago.
Visitors of all ages have stopped by to grab a book.
“What is fun,” Hartz said, “is when you see a parent lift up their little kid to the library, and you see the kid pulling out a book or two.”