I painted “Little Free Library’s First Cousin” en plein air in downtown Hudson, WI. While I was painting, I met Tony Bol, the man who built this Little Free Library. It turns out that he is the brother of the man who invented the Little Free Library.
Little Free Libraries have now turned into a global phenomenon. But they began in 2009 in Hudson, WI when Tony’s brother, Todd Bol, made a small cupboard out of an old garage door. He made it look like a little red schoolhouse with white trim and a white bell tower with a working bell. He then mounted it on a post in front of his house for the neighbors to swap books for free.
I later went to Todd’s home to see the place for myself and I met Todd’s lovely wife, Susan. She showed me the replica library that is there now. It looks similar, but the bell doesn’t work on the new one. The original garage-door-turned-library is currently being stored to go on display at a local museum. I wish I could have met Todd also. However, he passed away in 2018 due to cancer.
He left behind an amazing legacy of caring and generosity. These little libraries have become ways for people to share books, seeds, food, staples, dog treats, etc. They build community and foster good will among neighbors. All this cheer and good will has spread around the world, and can be found in many countries.
While the little library that I painted isn’t the original library, it was built by the brother of the original inventor. That’s why I entitled this painting, “Little Free Library’s First Cousin.” Todd’s efforts led to the formation of this non-profit. And also this for-profit that supports his family.