When Marci Cameron saw a Little Free Library for the first time in a public park in Madison, Wisconsin, nearly a decade ago, it didn’t take her long to decide to plant one in her own front yard in Saline.

The “take a book, share a book” concept hit all the right notes for her. It promoted reading and a sense of community, plus allowed her to adapt it for Saline by tapping into the community’s appreciation for public art.

Cameron repurposed a used kitchen cabinet, painting one side with a whimsical book-dangling tree and memorializing her two cats reading The Cat in the Hat on the other side. She keeps the three shelves of her Little Free Library, located next to the driveway of her Detroit St. home, well stocked with books for both adults and children.

“They seem to enjoy opening up the door and going through the books,” says Cameron, seventy-five, who retired from employee training and development in long-term care. She hears parents counseling their children to take only one book. “It just seems to be like a treasure chest, maybe?”

In January 2015, just a few months after her library went up, Cameron petitioned the Saline City Council to allow new little libraries in five city parks. At the time she was a member of the Saline Arts and Culture Committee and had secured $1,500 in funding, but needed approval to put them on city property.

A group of local artists designed and painted the five boxes featuring different motifs, from fanciful dragons—homage to Saline’s annual Celtic Festival—on the Mill Pond Park library box to charming renderings of the seasons on the Risdon Park library box on S. Ann Arbor St. The other three are at the Saline Recreation Center, Brecon Park, and Saline City Hall.

Cameron looped in still others in the community to help. Students from Saline Alternative High School, who need to do community service, dug the holes and installed the posts for the boxes. Cameron and her husband, Jim, then attached the library boxes to the posts. The Saline Young Adult Program, for students with special needs, also pitched in to help keep the boxes tidy and, more recently, repaired and repainted the Brecon Park box.

In 2016, Cameron wrote a proposal for a grant through the Saline Area Schools to secure funding for three more Little Free Libraries, which all look like a one-room schoolhouse. Those school sites are Liberty School, Pleasant Ridge Elementary, and the historic Weber-Blaess Schoolhouse.

Since then, Cameron has noticed half a dozen or more Little Free Libraries sprout up around the community. She applauds the creativity. One, in the front yard of a W. McKay St. home, is carved into an eight-foot-tall stump of a tree, a roof sheltering its glass-fronted door.

In pitching the concept, Cameron recalls: “I was always asked what if they’re vandalized? I’d already looked it up. There was no record of anyone in the country vandalizing a Little Free Library.”

The Little Free Library network, now organized as a nonprofit, started in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009. As of 2022, there were more than 150,000 Little Free Libraries in some 120 countries with more than 300 million books shared.

“The idea is to take one and give one, but it’s a good thing that I have to keep restocking,” says Cameron, who notes that the Saline Public Library’s used book corner allows her to glean unsold books to help keep the little libraries well supplied.

“It means they’re being used.”