Cheney Free Press -


Cheney's Little Free Library helps promote literacy, love of books


John McCallum

Carlila Hughes hopes others might take inspiration from her Little Free Library and build a book exchange of their own.

The title of author Vivian Abell's 1973 crafts book might best sum up Cheney-area resident Carlila Hughes' newest literary adventure: "Don't Throw it Away."

In Hughes' case, add don't file it away; share it. That's the emphasis behind the Little Free Library Hughes and husband Jim built and maintain at the end of the driveway at their home at 17912 S. Lois Drive.

According to its website, the Little Free Library organization's mission is to "promote literacy and love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide." Begun in 2009 in Wisconsin, the organization now has an estimated 15,000 mini-libraries around the world.

Eighteen of 26 area libraries are located in Spokane. Hughes' is the first on the West Plains, the culmination of an idea that began two years ago when she found the Little Free Library website while surfing the Internet.

Hughes ticked off a number of reasons why she thought building a free book exchange would be a good idea. Their location along South Lois Drive is accessible and prominent in the neighborhood, both she and her husband loved books and had a large supply on hand and both felt the need to begin downsizing.

And the idea of promoting literacy and reading proved to be "so cool," especially among children and adults who don't normally frequent a library. Hughes began boxing up books in preparation to stock the library, and went to the Habitat for Humanity store in Spokane where she picked up an old cupboard.

All of this went into storage until a several months ago when she decided to renew the project by dragging out the cupboard so her husband, who she said has a talent for building things, would see it on a daily basis.

"I figured if I got it out, he'd work on it, and he did," she said.

Jim Hughes outfitted the cupboard doors with rugged plexiglass windows, built a tar paper roof topped with stainless steel along with stainless steel front and back porches, sealed it tight against the weather and painted the house-looking structure blue.

"That thing has enough caulk in it to keep a normal house together," Carlila Hughes said. "It's not going to leak."

The couple mounted the library on a painted 55-gallon barrel at the end of their driveway, adding flower baskets for decoration. Hughes said she eventually wants to build a small flower garden and walkway for people checking out the library.

Hughes stocked the library with books and opened for business this past June. The response from the neighborhood has been excellent, she said. Most of the 30-plus books currently in the library were not titles originally stocked.

Books range from self-help to mysteries, cooking and crafts books, popular novels, "how to" and nature books. There's even a jigsaw puzzle in the collection. There are books by familiar authors such as Janet Evanovich, John Gresham and Tom Clancy.

There are children's books, although Hughes said she didn't have a lot of those to begin with, having given most of her collection to her grandchildren.

"I went to Value Village and bought some children's books," she admitted.

A notebook is included in the library for patrons to write comments on, with some readers writing critiques of what they have read and placing them in the books when they are returned. While the idea of the Little Free Library is to "take a book, return a book," Hughes said she doesn't want users to feel like they have to leave a selection.

And if news of her Little Free Library inspires others to build one of their own, Hughes is ready to help.

"If somebody wants to put a library up, oh boy, will I donate to it," she said. "I have books."

John McCallum can be reached at


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