Lesley Noll wants to invite you into a world at once vast and intimate.

That world begins within the Village Learning Place. Walking through the doors of this beautiful Charles Village space, a historic landmark complete with tranquil community gardens, is like walking to the realm of possibility. Village Learning Place emerged in 1997 as a people- driven initiative to retain a lending library in the branch Enoch Pratt Free Library no longer could sustain. As one of the few lending libraries existing outside the public library system, the Village Learning Place and its numerous free programs and services for Baltimoreans of all ages exists because of the great love its patrons and staff have for knowledge and, yes, possibility.

I like hanging out at Village Learning Place (VLP). Library Services Coordinator Lesley Noll and Office Manager Anna Platis started a pretty darn fun thing there called The Adultlescent Effort a couple of years ago, and between free BYOB events like Trivia Night, Bad Movies, Crappy Craftmaking, and the Second Chance Prom, VLP transforms itself into a place to make friends, laugh, and create. Who knew drinking a beer in the library could be such a great time? In addition to a being the setting of many a great time, Village Learning Place has become a vital community asset to Charles Village and beyond, providing GED courses, events and resources for all ages from small tots to seniors. All resources are free of charge and right there for anyone to utilize.

Soon, Village Learning Place will be bringing Baltimore Little Free Libraries, a program that started in Wisconsin in 2009 as an the initiative to set up tiny book swaps on a corner near you until micro-libraries outnumber those built by Andrew Carnegie – 2,510 in all and counting. Little Free Libraries has spread across 34 states in the US and 17 countries overall.

The first 10 structures are being built now by volunteer RichWalther; 5 of these, painted in a cheerful blue and yellow color scheme, will be unveiled in various green spaces across the Charles Village neighborhood during National Library Week, April 2013. During that same week, the other 5, to be individually painted by local artists in the style of their choosing, will be auctioned off at VLP’s annual Read Between The Wines fundraiser, held on the final Saturday of Library Week. Village Learning Place has always existed as a single lending library, and thanks to the efforts of these three dedicated women, brightly colored tiny branchlets will bring the Village, well, to the Village and beyond.

Baltimore Reads is providing the initial stock of books for each library, but as people take and leave books, each tiny building will become its own self- sustaining branch, with neighborhood stewards assigned to ensure that each one remains stocked and kept up. Each of the little libraries can hold 50 books, which means you’ll be able to find quite a variety of things to read in every location. It doesn’t end there. Plans to have more structures built, and even classes in building and maintaining your own little library are in the works.

Currently, Village Learning Place is raising funds to complete the initial buildings; they are a featured fundraising project of Give Corps from October 15-19 and will continue raising funds through this site through December 31. Click here to donate to Little Free Library on Give Corps. 

I love this initiative. The idea of having a little space right on the corner, or in the park, or in my front yard, to pop by and pick up a book, drop off a book, and share space and ideas in a little portal with other people in this great city, to me is like being able to exchange love notes with perfect strangers. I love Village Learning Place, and its enthusiastic and dedicated staff who have such great love for this city and the hopes and dreams of its citizenry. I love kicking back with a beer in a library and playing some trivia, watching movies, and celebrating the printed page with friends both old and  new. Stop in to this great space and learn more- you’ll be very happy you did. And soon, when you see these little
buildings around town, step into that intimate and vast world. Take a book. Leave a book. Build your own world of words. This is going to be great.


  • http://www.travelingteacherblog.com/ Diana the Traveling Teacher

    I can’t imagine a childhood or a life without books. I adore this project! And, now that I’m living in a country without libraries, I’m thinking that this might be an easy project to replicate… hmmmm… thank you, Barbara Wilgus and What Weekly for sharing the story! 

  • Elaine Pollack

    This is Amazing! I love it and The VLP!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1202526714 Shirley L. Bigley LaMotte

    Thanks  for the shoutout to Baltimore Reads. We LOVE supporting city wide literacy and the VLP.