Little Free Library brightens street

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If you happen upon a park bench or an airplane seat shortly after Lori Lohman vacates it, you might encounter a feral book.

“I don’t want to own them,” she says, so she releases them back into the wild once she’s done.

It’s not that she doesn’t love books — quite the opposite. It’s that she loves them so much that she can’t help but share them, something else she loves. A mindful melding of the two led to Lohman’s Little Free Library, a Babar the Elephant-themed box in her front yard filled with books for the neighborhood to enjoy at will.

“She’s very interested in having a community environment here,” said Lohman’s neighbor, Jennifer England. England’s twin boys Liam and Finnegan, 7, enjoy leaving their outgrown books for others kids to discover.

“They’re learning about community and being a good neighbor, and about sharing,” said England. “They were pretty into reading already.”

Little Free Libraries are growing in popularity since they started springing up around the country. The organization estimates there are more than 6,000 worldwide, with seven in Colorado alone.

“If this were just about providing free books on a shelf, the whole idea might disappear after a few months,” reads www.littlefreelibrary.org. “Little Free Libraries have a unique, personal touch, and there is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community. These aren’t just any old books, this is a carefully curated collection, and the library itself is a piece of neighborhood art.”

Lohman is an avid reader herself, devouring news online — particularly related to her career as a water researcher—- and murder mysteries for fun. As a kid, she cut her teeth on the likes of Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins.

A love of reading continues to run through the family vein — two of Lohman’s nieces, Bizzie and Camilla, have appeared on “Sesame Street” in recent years. Bizzie, now 10, has actually been on twice, once as the letter “R” wearing bunny ears.

Lohman has lived in her home in the Berry Park neighborhood near Lowell Boulevard and Bowles Avenue since 1956, when she was 11. She hopes the neighbor children consider the library a gift.

“People get old and die, and now I’m one of the really old ones,” she said. “Pretty much everything else has turned over, and it’s been young people with kids.”

Such is history, which is a passion of hers and what her doctorate is in.

“Really, almost everything we do is either a direct output of some part of history or we should be looking to history for direction,” she said.