Across the globe, there are more than 50,000 “little free libraries.” The small structures are typically built by a local resident to hold between 10 and 100 books. Readers can borrow a book, swap a book for a different book or just browse the unmanned library which operates under the honor system.

The Oaks of Atascocita subdivision has a new little free library, thanks to Oaks resident Michael Foster, who designed, built and installed it. The library is located on Forest Timbers Drive by the Oaks community swimming pool, near the tennis court.

Library steward Donna Zapatka said the little library has three shelves, two for adult books and one for children’s books. She said she was inspired to spearhead getting the library up and running after vacationing in Estes Park last summer, where she saw several of the little libraries. She did some research and found the littlefreelibrary.org website, which allows readers to search an area for the location of a little free library. The Oaks little library is one of a small handful in the northeast Houston area registered on the website. The city of Houston has many little libraries, with the Heights area offering over a dozen.

“The premise of the little free library is that people can take a book and keep it or trade a book for another book. Public libraries require you to return books, but that’s not a requirement for the little library. In fact, people who can’t afford to leave a book, can just take a book. There are probably already 50 or more books in there. Titles range, but there are Harry Potter books, Tom Clancy books and a bunch of children’s books. It’s all on the honor system,” she said.

“We do stamp our books with a quote that reads “never for sale, always for free” and also include the little library address.

One of the reasons we stamp our books is to prevent people from clearing out the library and taking them to a book reseller. Used book stores will look for a stamp and refuse to buy books with the stamp,” said Zapatka.

The little free library website includes a history of the movement and also photos of other little libraries, including one that looks like a one-room schoolhouse, and one built by “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groenig. According to the website, the schoolhouse library was a tribute to the builder’s mother, who was a teacher who loved to read. Her son built the schoolhouse, filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.

The Oaks dedicated the library on Jan. 21.

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