A few weeks ago, Hays became home to five more Little Free Library boxes, those wooden enclosures planted around town where anyone can take a book to read, or drop one off that they no longer want.

“The whole purpose is to promote literacy in the community,” said Samantha Gill, adult librarian for the Hays Public Library. “It’s one more way to reach outside our walls and get books into the hands of children, teens and adults.”

The idea is “take a book, leave a book,” but Gill says it’s okay if that’s not possible. She’s just glad the Little Free Library concept is so popular in Hays that the city in late November added another five.

“We pinpointed the prime areas for them, such as neighborhoods next to schools, and in areas that are not walkable to the library,” Gill said.

The most recent ones were installed by a crew from the City of Hays Parks Department in Ekey Park at 19th and Holmes Road, Aubel-Bickle Park at 30th and Sherman, the Frontier Park East playground east of Main, Hays Dog Park off U.S. Highway 183 Alternate, and Kiwanis Park at 17th and Harvest Avenue.

Typically the boxes are stocked with about 25 books, many of them for children and young adults, but there are plenty for adults too.

On Wednesday, anyone stopping by the Free Little Library at the Optimist playground at Seven Hills Park could choose from “The Pocket Wife” by Susan Crawford, “Thorn Among the Lilies” by Michael Hiebert, “What the Bride Wore” by Jade Lee, “One Week in December” by Holly Chamberlin, and many more. That box is stocked by residents of the Centennial Towers apartment building.

The box at Hays Aquatic Park, the city’s first Little Free Library, which was installed two years ago, on Wednesday carried a Clive Barker offering, as well as children’s selections, “Annie’s City Adventures,” “James Marshall’s Cinderella,” “The Belly Book,” “Up and Down on the Merry-Go-Round,” and “Old Devil Wind.”

“We have a good stock right now,” Gill said. “Come summer, that stockpile will really deplete and we’ll need more.”

Each Little Free Library has been uniquely painted, like the little paw prints on the one at the Dog Park, painted by library assistant Rebecca Grizzell, or the Frontier Park box aptly painted with buffalo and wheat by library assistant Nicole Thibodeau.

No one monitors who takes a book or brings one back. Gill just makes sure they are chock full. Books are either loaded by library staff or more recently by the community volunteers who adopt a box to stock. Members of Trinity Lutheran Church stock the one at Ekey Park. Angie Cook and her 5th Grade Class stock the one at Kiwanis Park.

This time of year, the books move rather slow. Summer is another story, because that’s when the books fly out of the boxes, and Gill couldn’t be happier about it. 

Not everyone can leave a book, and that’s okay, she says, thanks to plenty of donations from the community.

“The image that the library is a building where you come and have to be quiet, it’s so much more than that,” Gill said. “Our mission has really expanded.”