ALAMEDA -- The hometown feel of Alameda is getting even homier as mini-libraries pop up around the Island. These small wooden structures, some of which look like old school houses, let neighbors to take and share books as often as they like.
"I noticed a few of them in Alameda, and then we put ours up about a month ago," said Nicole Kohleriter Perelman. "There are lots of kids on our street, and I had some older books I was thinking to donate."
Perelman is pleased at the growing popularity of the Little Free Library near Wood Street and Buena Vista Avenue.
"Kids are leaving books and taking others on a regular basis," she explained. "There's a great mix of adult literature in the library, too, and there's never the same group of books in the library for very long."
To start a Little Free Library, neighbors can order a kit (for about $160 and up) or build one from scratch. It costs about $35 to become an official member of the Little Free Library organization.
Todd Bol, of Hudson, Wis., built the first such library as a memorial tribute to his mother in 2009. He then worked with Rick Brooks, of Madison, Wis., to expand the concept. There now are more than 10,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide.
"People like to take books and replace them with their favorites," Perelman noted. "I see people doing this all the time. One boy left 'The Diary of a Wimpy Kid,' which is very popular. These libraries really take on a life of their own."
Kristy Gray and her family built and put up a Little Free Library in the Bayport neighborhood in August.
"My parents, who live near Ventura, got me into it," Gray said. "And family members from Maine to Spokane (Wash.) have them. It's crazy how they've caught on."
Gray said that, in addition to her triplets, kids from around the area come by to share books.
"We live near Ruby Bridges Elementary School, and it's so cute to watch children stop and look at what's in our Little Free Library," she said.
Both Gray and Perelman said their libraries have books for adults, too.
"We want parents and nonparents to enjoy them," Gray said. "I love to spread the word, because the concept is so charming."
The libraries also bring community members together.
"I've gotten to know neighbors who live around the corner who come to our library," Perelman said. "It's a really nice way to build community, and it complements the great community feeling Alameda already has."
For more information, see www.Littlefreelibrary.org.