BY JULIE GRAY
This spring, the Elm Heights neighborhood Listserv was abuzz with postings about a dollhouse-size library that had sprung up in the front yard of freelance editor and translator Marie Deer, at East 1st Street and South Highland Avenue. Deer calls her two-shelf library, from which anyone is invited to take or leave a volume, a book house. She erected it in honor of her late parents, Barbara and Donald Deer, who had been missionaries in Congo and were “huge readers.”
There are already a number of similar libraries around town — five sponsored by Ivy Tech’s Center for Civic Engagement and another in the Grandview Hills Neighborhood — all affiliated with the Little Free Library movement, which started in Wisconsin in 2009 and is now a nonprofit organization that has about 15,000 libraries worldwide. The Monroe County Public Library, in conjunction with neighborhood associations, will soon be joining the Little Free Library movement and opening 15 little libraries in neighborhoods around the county, funded by a grant from Duke Energy Foundation.
Deer, with the help of her friend Marion Krefeldt, built her library by retrofitting a cabinet they found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They covered the sides in a Congolese wax-print fabric from Deer’s parents. Deer’s husband, IU Associate Professor of Germanic Studies Michel Chaouli, dug the postholes. And the family involvement doesn’t end there: In its first months, the library proved so popular with neighbors that the grass in front of it got trampled. So Deer’s teenage son, Felix, and a friend installed paving stones.
Deer is immensely pleased with the reaction to her memorial: “It seems like the neighborhood has really adopted it. People are feeling responsible for bringing books.” She laughingly rejects the idea that she has followed in her parents’ footsteps by becoming, in effect, a book missionary. Her claim is more modest: “It’s a cool thing, and I wanted to put this cool thing out there.” And come fall, when the Monroe County Public Library’s 15 little neighborhood libraries are up and running, there will be even more cool things out there.