When Jeffory Schiebel was 12 or 13 years old, he gathered all the money he’d saved from his paper route and bought a canoe. He then checked out a book from the library about how to paddle a canoe.
“Libraries are the best use of taxpayer dollars,” Schiebel, now 60, says. “You can learn anything!”
Now Maple Grove residents who live near Elm Creek Park Reserve don’t even need to make a trip to the public library to learn something new: They can simply walk down the street to Schiebel’s Little Free Library. What is a Little Free Library? Well, it looks like a large birdhouse with a front door, planted on a post close to the curb in someone’s front yard, within easy reach for anyone to look at or open. What you won’t find inside are birds—although you may find a book about birds.
“At first, people say ‘What is that?’” Schiebel says, adding that most passersby eventually open the door to discover books—lots of them. “Sometimes people feel guilty for taking a book without leaving one,” he says.
The wide range of titles, from mysteries to sci-fi, bestsellers to children’s books, means everyone can find something of interest. The idea is to leave a book, but you can always leave one later—or not.
When kids get off the bus near Schiebel’s house, they often stop at the library on their way home. It’s a destination for a neighborhood grandmother, who has granddaughters ages 4 and 6; Schiebel can hear them talk as he works in his garage. They sit on the curb and read. Once finished, they complete their walk back home.
The cold weather doesn’t hamper activity at the library either. “Last winter, people were still coming,” Schiebel says. “I had to shovel the darn thing out.”
This librarian doesn’t seem to mind a little extra work to keep his investment in neighborhood literacy alive. Schiebel is a retired Hennepin County deputy sheriff with no lack of activities to fill his time. He has several hobbies—including motorcycles, fixing clocks, collecting rocks, and tending to his fish, turtle and dogs—most of which he has learned more about through books.
Schiebel’s curiosity has served him well through a career in investigations with the Hennepin County sheriff’s office. During years of working at crime scenes (where he specialized in blood-stain pattern analysis) he was always eager to get to the truth of things. He reminisces about cases where he found proof that helped catch the “bad guy” or identified when someone was innocent. When Schiebel is not working on hobbies or keeping the library orderly, he teaches forensics at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.
Although the owner of this Little Free Library is steeped in solving crime, you won’t find an abundance of crime novels here. You’ll find knowledge and imagination and, perhaps more importantly, what Schiebel describes as something that “makes the neighborhood smaller.”
Find out more at littlefreelibrary.org. The site also maps six free libraries in Maple Grove alone, and what appear to be hundreds in the Twin Cities area, including the little red British phone booth library and the book garden, which can be found on the Library Originals page.
Visit this library at 11748 100th Place N. and learn more at littlefreelibrary.org