First June Anderson’s neighbors came to look, then passersby in the Dicken School neighborhood stopped to admire the miniature red barn mounted on the brick wall near Anderson’s back door. A clear plastic door reveals shelves lined with books, including, in May, The Bridges of Madison County, Nickeled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Neatly lettered instructions inform visitors they’re welcome to “Take,” “Borrow,” or “Trade.”

A retired third-grade teacher with bright blue eyes and a lit-up expression, Anderson read a USA Today article about the “Little Free Library” movement, and told her two kids she loved the idea. Her daughter and son-in-law in Arizona, both engineers, built the book barn from scratch. Although at first people just looked, Anderson says, they are now regularly removing books, which are quickly replenished by the high-energy nonagenarian. “I want people to come by and maybe talk about books!” she says.

Todd Bol built the first little free library in Madison, Wisconsin, two years ago to honor his late mother, a retired teacher and book lover. Bowled over by the response, he’s since been promoting them as a way to encourage reading and bring communities closer together. His nonprofit’s website,, tracks the creation of the little book houses. “Our guess is that there’s between 1,000 and 2,000 in forty states and twenty countries,” says Rick Brooks, who works closely with Bol.

Anderson, who appears to be Ann Arbor’s first keeper of a little library, hopes to unload volumes she’s collected over decades in this community-friendly way. Her one plea to anyone who takes books: “Don’t return them!”