The Little Free Library of Windsor and Dewitt
Travel down any of Del Ray’s well-worn streets, you’ll always notice something unique and interesting — funky yard art, gorgeous landscaping, a free antique on the curb. One of my favorite new additions to the neighborhood has got to be the Little Free Library (LFL) located at the corner of Windsor and Dewitt.
Bigger than a breadbox but smaller than a dog house, the LFL is part of a network of over 5,000 LFLs around the world.
This LFL branch is the brainchild of Renée Adams (below left) and Elli Ludwigson (below right), neighbors and friends on Windsor Avenue. It was actually the first LFL in Northern Virginia.
Even if you’ve never met Renée, you may know of her as the proprietor of the beloved poetry fence along Dewitt. The poetry fence has been a popular Del Ray attraction ever since Renée launched it in 2009. It’s because of the poetry fence that Elli met Renée, after Renée advertised a neighborhood poetry reading.
When Elli suggested they launch a branch of the LFL, of course Renée said yes! The process was pretty simple (it’s outlined on the main LFL website). Although they wanted to build the library themselves, they opted to purchase a pre-assembled structure and had another neighbor attach the building to a post and secure into the ground. It was a team effort — here’s Renée and her neighbor back in April, putting on the finishing touches.
Photo credit: Little Free Library of Windsor and Dewitt
The LFL works just like any ordinary library, except you don’t need a library card and the only request is that if you do take a book, make sure to drop one off for another patron to enjoy. Get some, give some.
The LFL is made from reclaimed barn wood and has a rustic and welcoming patina. The pine had a few knots that caused leaks when it rained, so Renée and Elli patched those with wood filler. Eventually they would like to seal the structure to further protect against the elements.
It even has its own registration number and certification as a Little Free Library of Distinction.
So far, traffic to the library has been pretty steady. I noticed the books I dropped off last week were already gone, and many new books had arrived. At any given time the library will be stocked with about 30-50 books — fiction, non-fiction, even some how-to home improvement books. Their biggest need right now is children’s books — classics are popular and move off the “shelves” quickly.
When books don’t move, Renée will take them inside her house and rotate in others.
Renée, an avid gardener, went above and beyond by adding a trellis to grow clematis. She also planted several perennials along the sidewalk and a flowering vine on a nearby sign post.
I can’t wait to come back in a few months for some fast food with my summer reading, fresh curbside tomatoes.
The LFL of Windsor and Dewitt isn’t the only one in Del Ray — there’s another located on the 400 block of Custis Ave. It opened a few weeks after the one on Windsor and was fashioned out of an old beekeeping house.
The LFL does more than provide reading materials for patrons of all interests and ages, it also helps build community. Elli lives a block down from the LFL and she appreciates how this project has given her the opportunity to meet new neighbors. And Renée loves how she can sit on her porch and people she doesn’t even know will drive or walk by, look over at the LFL, and smile and wave.
People stop all the time, sometimes they leave with a book and sometimes they don’t, but the LFL serves as a steady reminder that a new adventure or discovery patiently awaits inside that small wooden box.
Have you been to either of the LFLs in Del Ray? Any favorite books you have checked out? Stay in touch with Renée and Elli by visiting their Facebook page.
If you’re interested in starting your own LFL, visit the Little Free Library website for registration information, blueprints and more.