La Jolla couple reaches out to neighbors with ‘Little Free Library’

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Longtime La Jollans Karin and John Donaldson love to read — and to share that passion with others.

“We have a house full of books, and I sell my books on Amazon,” Karin said. “John was saying we need to add a room to the house if you don’t get rid of some of your books.”

However, Karin stumbled upon a better idea while perusing a copy of


magazine one day, where she learned about the Little Free Library organization. It encourages people to strengthen the bond in their community and share the joy of reading by building little wooden boxes at which people can swap books, for free.

“It’s like a neighborhood book exchange,” said Karin, who painted the Little Free Library she and John placed in front of their home at 1683 Calle Candela (John built it).

“Basically, people were making these little libraries of various styles and box designs and putting books in there that they didn’t need anymore, with the suggestion that anybody that wanted to take a couple of books could take them, and if they had books at home that they wanted to share with neighbors they could put their books in there. It just created this wonderful neighborhood, community feel.”

Various styles of Little Free Library boxes can be ordered via the organization’s website, or people can download instructions to build their own.

The Donaldsons said that, after a period in which they watched their neighbors age and children move away, younger families are returning, which also inspired Karin.

“I thought, oh, man, this is going to be fun, because I have all these children’s books that I can share,” Karin said. “The first thing our grandchildren want to do when they get here is look at the library.

“A lot of books that we have put in there are actually gone now and these are all our neighbors sharing books that they’ve read.

“We seem to get more than we give,” John added.

--Pat Sherman