Nanci Nowlen stands beside Keizer's first Little Free Library, located at 317 Aldridge Drive N. The library opens Jan. 10. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Nanci Nowlen stands beside Keizer’s first Little Free Library, located at 317 Aldridge Drive N. The library opens Jan. 10. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)


Of the Keizertimes

Keizerite Nanci Nowlen’s plans for retirement from speech therapy have been steadily accumulating during the past several months.

One of her desires was to volunteer at a local library or with reading-related clubs, but she wanted to get started immediately (her retirement was official on Jan. 3). She decided to bring a library to her home. As of Friday, Jan. 10, Nowlen is the proud owner of Keizer’s first Little Free Library at 317 Aldridge Drive N.

“I just thought it was such a good idea, and we have a lot of children in our neighborhood so I wanted to make sure they had a place to go for books,” Nowlen said.

As a speech therapist for the Salem-Keizer School District connecting kids and language has been something of a calling.

The Little Free Library movement began in Hudson, Wis., in 2009. Todd Bol constructed a small-scale schoolhouse with shelves that he installed on his property and began stocking it with books. Anyone in the community was invited to take a book and/or leave one of their own. The first Little Free Library — a tribute to Bol’s school teacher mom – was born.

The movement has grown to nearly 10,000 neighborhood libraries worldwide since then. Nowlen’s is No. 9,170. A map of all registered Little Free Libraries is available at

While some owners choose to construct their own libraries, there is also a selection available at the website. That’s where Nowlen found hers.

“It was built by an Amish carpenter out of old barn wood and then weatherized,” Nowlen said.

The libraries aren’t intended to house castoff paperbacks. Instead, owners are encouraged to make their modules carefully curated collections of works they want to share with friends and neighbors.

While Nowlen wants to have a lot of children’s books available at her library, she also knows how she wants to see the collection grow over time.

“I like cookbooks and knitting books, but I know those won’t appeal to everyone. I’ve ordered some titles through the Little Library website and want to get some science fiction and literary novels,” she said.