Three Twin Cities literary presses already renowned for collaborating in unconventional ways to promote books and authors are partnering with a Wisconsin literacy group and a Minneapolis museum to promote literacy, publicize the mission of each of the nonprofit organizations involved, and last, but not least, sell some books.
Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions, and Graywolf Press are supplying the books, with each press initially contributing 50 books. Little Free Library, an organization that constructs and both donates and sells large wooden cabinets (“little free libraries”) that can hold up to two dozen books available for the taking by passersby – is supplying the containers. Ten little free libraries, hand crafted from salvaged cranberry crates, each containing 15 books selected by each press, will be sold initially by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The Walker will begin selling them on consignment in a few weeks, both in their store and online (http://shop.walkerart.org/). The proceeds from sales will be divided between the presses and Little Free Library.
“It sounds like a Ponzi scheme, but it really isn’t,” Coffee House publisher Chris Fischbach explained, “It’s a cool community effort we want to support.”
The initial little free libraries containing the curated Milkweed, Coffee House, and Graywolf titles are meant for indoor use, Fischbach noted, describing them as suitable for coffee shops or restaurants, or venues where people congregate who would be receptive to either giving or taking books. If this promotion is successful, the presses and Little Free Libraries may make available books in little free libraries that can be situated outdoors.
“We all see this as planting seeds,” Little Free Libraries co-founder Todd Bol told PW. “It’s an alternative way to get really good books into people’s hands.” Little Free Library, was founded in Wisconsin by Bol and Richard Brooks in 2009. Brooks estimates there are 200-300 of their little free libraries maintained around the world, the majority of them in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Little Free Library is already selling on their website little free libraries containing between $100-$200 worth of books published by Coffee House, Milkweed, and Graywolf. Prices for these little free libraries (with books included) range between $100 for a mini to $300 for a double decker (http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/order-a-little-library.html).
This spring, Wisconsin Historical Society Press also is partnering with Little Free Library to stock little free libraries around the state with multiple copies of one adult and one children’s title that will change each month. Currently, WHSP provides promotional bookmarks for inclusion in the structures. The press hopes to, at some future date, provide packages of their titles to organizations sponsoring little free libraries in their communities.