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Joel and Kristen Guthrie set up the library in front of their home for neighbors and to help encourage their son’s love of reading.

Library on the lawn

Family joins project to share titles from box in front yard

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Kristen Guthrie holds a stack of books for son Will, 7, to add to the stock of their Little Free Library, which they have installed in the front yard of their home.

A computer hacker hides out while a journalist works to prove her innocence in a string of murders. A teenager realizes she can bring book characters to life when she reads out loud. And a little boy finds out what happens when you give a moose a muffin.

All of this and more takes place in books tucked in a small wooden box in the Guthrie family’s front yard on Springfield Avenue in northeast Fort Wayne.

On a muggy overcast day just before the Fourth of July, Joel Guthrie, 43; Kristen, 38; and their son Will, 7, stood under the canopy of trees in their yard, rearranging books and seeing what was new in the library of sorts they installed a few weeks ago.

“Oh, a firefighter one,” Kristen said to Will, a second-grader at Blackhawk Christian School. “That’s neat.”

Kristen, Visit Fort Wayne’s director of marketing, got the idea for a little library after seeing something similar in a yard near her parents’ home in Michigan. She looked around online and found the website for Little Free Library, a national non-profit organization that promotes reading by encouraging families to install a mini library in their yard.

The library can hold about 30 books and has a good selection for kids, teens and adults, Kristen said. The family supplied the initial batch, but they’ve already seen new titles cropping up.

Joel, a science teacher at Blackhawk Christian, made the box out of wood by following photos he saw online. The library’s red door is a repurposed picture frame. As they inspected Joel’s handiwork, he and Kristen joked about the changes they might have to make for winter so they don’t wind up with ice-crusted, frozen books. A roof with a good overhang, Joel said, is key.

Patrons of the Guthries’ library don’t actually have to check out books and return them. A note on the inside of the box reads: “Welcome! Take a book! Donate a book! Share a good read with your neighbors!” There’s even a brown, insect-sticker-covered guestbook, already filled with a few messages of praise and gratitude.

Joel said he’s enjoyed seeing neighborhood kids ride up on their bicycles to check out the book selection, and the library has allowed the family to meet more neighbors. Kristen added that the library is a good way to encourage Will’s love of reading. He’s already picked out a few new books, including his favorite, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin.”

With lots of dog walkers, kids on bikes and stroller-pushing moms in the neighborhood, the Guthries’ library has seen a lot of action since it was installed.

“It’s really fun to see what shows up every day,” Kristen said.