Little Free Scoville

2 March 2022
Little Free Library modeled after Scoville
Little Free Library modeled after Scoville

The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 by the late Todd Boi, who founded a Wisconsin-based nonprofit of the same name. The initial goal of the 501(c)(3), which encourages neighbors to place used books in a simple wooden structure, was to help facilitate the construction of 2,510 like-sized containers around the country, thus surpassing the number of libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie.

Today, according to Margret Aldrich, the organization’s director of communications, there are 138,000 Little Free Libraries standing in 112 countries on all seven continents. “Fifty percent of them are designed and built by local craftspeople,” she says. “We’ve seen replicas of people’s homes, B&Bs, and a number of historical buildings.”

One such assembly, modeled after Scoville Memorial Library and fabricated by American studies professor emeritus Clifford Clark, now stands outside of Nutting House. Made out of red oak and featuring a rubber sub-roof, copper flashing, and slate from the original Scoville Hall (the building was renovated in 2017), the book box took five weeks to hand chisel. And, says Clark, it’s anchored by two four-by-four posts sunk six feet deep because “I had to make sure it could withstand wear and tear from enthusiastic students!”

Clark, who has a woodworking shop at his Northfield home and hails from a family populated by builders, was initially approached by history professor Susannah Ottaway ’89. Her hope, having just served on Carleton’s presidential search committee, was that a Little Free Scoville could serve as both a tribute to President Alison Byerly’s literary scholarship and further connect the college with members of the Northfield community.

In the wake of Byerly’s fall inauguration, the little library is regularly filled with favorite books that past and present Carls are welcome to share on the college’s “Story Core” page.

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