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Here Are Some Awesome Little Free Libraries In San Diego

Reported by Katie Schoolov

Maybe you've spotted them in your neighborhood: tiny boxes that contain books for anyone to take. From a Pokémon GO stop to a mini-ghost town schoolhouse, here are some of the best ones we've seen around.

Maybe you've spotted them in your neighborhood: tiny boxes that contain books for anyone to take.

Most of these so-called "little libraries" are part of the Little Free Library program, which was started by two bibliophiles in Wisconsin. It maps registered little free libraries worldwide, and has become wildly popular, including in our own backyards in San Diego.

The idea's simple: Install a little box, simple or elaborate, where anyone can leave or take books — for free. From a Pokémon GO stop to a mini-ghost town schoolhouse, here are some of the best little libraries we've seen around San Diego.

1. Surprise for a 'wannabe librarian'

Photo caption: Stephanie Thompson stocks her Little Free Library on Sheldon Avenue for the f...

Photo by Stephanie Thompson

Stephanie Thompson stocks her Little Free Library on Sheldon Avenue for the first time, December 2014.

A lifelong lover of books and a “wannabe librarian,” Stephanie Thompson had mentioned little free libraries to her family a few times. And so they made her one.

“I guess they were listening!” Thompson said. “They built and painted it in secret and unveiled it to me on Christmas morning, and I was in tears with surprise and happiness.”

She stamps the books that she puts inside and makes bookmarks for those she personally recommends.

“It has been a great success in the neighborhood, and I love nothing better than to spot people stopping and browsing or dropping off books,” Thompson said.

2. A hoot

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 3874 Tomahawk Lane.

Photo by Cristina Gispert

A Little Free Library on 3874 Tomahawk Lane.

“Our little free library was designed to look like an owl because of its location near Tecolote Canyon, the largest canyon in the city of San Diego,” said Cristina Gispert, who made the library. She notes tecolote means owl in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

“We constructed this library because we are charmed and delighted every time we come across a little free library in our area, so we thought we could spread the love in our neighborhood by building one too,” she said.

3. Talk of the neighborhood

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 2559 Greyling Dr.

Photo by Chris Harrington

A Little Free Library on 2559 Greyling Dr.

Chris and Clare Harrington placed their little free library last September in front of their home in Serra Mesa after seeing them around.

“We put a great value on reading,” said Chris, who works at Francis Parker School. His wife, Clare, works at UC San Diego.

He said people of all ages take and leave books, and they’ve met a lot of neighbors they might not have met otherwise.

“My mom liked the idea so much that she put a library in front of her house, too,” Chris said.

4. Better than a toy room

Photo caption: Jonah Figueroa, 10, and his brother Liam, 12, pose by their Little Free Libra...

Photo by Emilio Figueroa

Jonah Figueroa, 10, and his brother Liam, 12, pose by their Little Free Library on 3019 Ibsen St.

“The little free library came about from our children's avid reading habits,” Emilio Figueroa said. “Their toy room was becoming inundated with toys and we decided to share their love for literature with the neighborhood. They helped design and build the library, and restock it as needed. We have books for babies, children, teens and adults.”

5. A Liberty Station stop

Photo caption: Jeffrey Vaca stands next to the Little Free Library on 2730 Historic Decatur ...

Photo by San Diego Writers, Ink

Jeffrey Vaca stands next to the Little Free Library on 2730 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 16.

San Diego Writers, Ink, made this little free library at Liberty Station for readers and writers.

“There is nothing a writer likes more than readers,” said Kim Keeline, the group’s membership and communications director, who came up with the idea. The library has regulars who donate books and take or borrow some for themselves.

Jeffrey Vaca of the Steampunk “Make” community built the library, adding a solar-powered lamp inside so visitors from nearby restaurants and the monthly Friday Night Liberty Open House can use it later in the day.

“With all the people roaming around, looking at the art galleries and museums, the library gets visits at night,” Keeline said.

6. A Pokémon GO stop

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 3930 Georgia St. featured on the mobile app Pokémon GO.

Photo by Barbara Cox

A Little Free Library on 3930 Georgia St. featured on the mobile app Pokémon GO.

Dave Cox made this little free library out of recycled fence material and roof shingles and placed it between signposts of his wife Barbara's practice, Dr. Cox Consulting.

“I realized after trying to use an e-reader for a while that you don't really develop a relationship with an e-book the way that you do with a physical book, so I wanted to share them out into the world,” Dave said.

Barbara has the same fondness for reading.

“I was a (premature) baby and couldn't walk until I was 4 or 5,” she said. “So I learned to read early to pass the time and developed a love of reading.”

Recently, the couple were told that their library is a Pokémon GO stop.

“We have some people discovering it as they play, which is fun,” Dave said.

7. A duplex

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 3110 Laurel St.

Photo by Andrew Hudson

A Little Free Library on 3110 Laurel St.

Andrew Hudson's father built this little free library during his last visit from the U.K. He said his 9-year-old daughter, Evie, insists on evenly splitting the library — one section for children's books and the other for adults.

8. A mini ghost-town schoolhouse

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 3593 29th St.

Photo by Mitch Hall

A Little Free Library on 3593 29th St.

Inspired by ghost-town schoolhouses, this is the second little free library Mitch Hall has built.

“The first was for my grandkids in Clairemont Mesa,” Hall said.

9. A Christmas present

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 1811 Lyndon Road

Photo by Harla Yesner

A Little Free Library on 1811 Lyndon Road

Harla and James Yesner ordered their little free library from the program's website in 2014 as their Christmas presents to each other.

10. Won it at the auction

Photo caption: A Free Little Library on 3542 Curtis St.

Photo by Deja Correia

A Free Little Library on 3542 Curtis St.

The 2015-16 fourth-grade class at Loma Portal Elementary School designed this little free library. Deja Correia's son was part of that class, and her family won it in an auction at the school.

“We always wanted one, his class made it, and we're so close to the school we thought it'd be a fun way for it to stay close to the kids,” Correia said. “We get visitors from all over and a lot of young readers. We get donations constantly from neighbors as well as friends and family who just randomly drop off books on our doorstep.”

11. Gift from dad

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 1875 Washington Pl.

Photo by Ariane Brittany

A Little Free Library on 1875 Washington Pl.

Ariane Brittany's father, who now lives in Arizona, made her a doll house when she was a child. When she saw the little free libraries around, she asked him if he had seen them as well.

“He's in his 70s now, and he wanted to make a little free library to look like my home in Mission Hills,” Brittany said. “So he had me take pictures and measurements. Voila, a few months later, my new library showed up in his SUV and he and my husband installed it together.
”

12. Skateboarder's library

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 1811 Edgemont St.

Photo by Kevin Marks

A Little Free Library on 1811 Edgemont St.

A skateboarder since 1986, Kevin Marks built his little free library with broken skateboards. He said he's seen the libraries while traveling around the country over the past few years.

"Somehow, the idea to make the roof look like a skateboard ramp popped into my head," Marks said. "All the materials used in the construction were repurposed. In other words, we didn't spend a dime to make the library. Just the $35 to register the library."

13. Doctor Who would approve

Photo caption: A Little Free Library on 3233 N. Mountain View Dr.

Photo by Ramie Zomisky

A Little Free Library on 3233 N. Mountain View Dr.

Before discovering little free libraries, Ramie Zomisky and her family used to leave books on benches for people to take. Then they found out about the program, and took it up a notch.

"A TARDIS is perfect!" She said. "Through books you can go anywhere you want — in time, in space, and even into yourself. I think the Doctor would approve!"

Zomisky once found a thank you note from a neighbor who picked up a humor book right before starting chemo therapy.

"They said it was a blessing to have a read during some challenging times," she said.

Zomisky said she also recently found a card from a little library owner in New Zealand, and that every year, her library attracts participants of the Rock 'n' Roll marathon, which passes by her home.

"The number of people who stop for selfies with our TARDIS is always a shock!," she said. "They just leave the course and come over to see our LFL!"

Little Free Libraries In San Diego

For the nearest little free library near you, just enter your zip code in this map. Did we miss your favorite? Tweet us a photo at @KPBSNews. Have one of your own? Send us a photo here.

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