Retired librarian keeps the written word alive

Little libraries expand through southeast Wisconsin

CREATED May 8, 2012 - UPDATED: May 8, 2012

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WAUWATOSA - After 40 years of being a librarian, Marlene Heard wanted to continue to share her passion for books, so she started her own little library.

Marlene tells TODAY'S TMJ4's Jesse Ritka she can't live without books, "I have to be with a library, I just have to be."

So when Marlene found out about the Little Free Library movement, by reading of course, she knew instantly she had to be a part of it.  "I called my son and said hey, you can cover a whole bunch of holidays; I want this.  So he got it and made it up right away," she explains.

The retired librarian's little library can be found just off Menomonee River Parkway, and it has only been up for a few weeks, but Marlene's already noticed books flying off her shelf.  "I just looked this morning and there are very few in there!" Heard exclaims.

But thanks to the painted "Take one, leave one?" instructions, books are not only returned, but the collection grows.  Marlene even had to add two extra book bins, "Just to see people take books, bring them back, bring back 3, 4 and they only took out one and they get them from neighbors, this is just... to me, I just love it, it's fun!"

The Little Free Library movement began in Hudson, Wisconsin and is spreading across the nation.  Southeast Wisconsin now has 11 little free libraries, but thanks to her librarian experience, visitors get more than a book when browsing through Marlene's mini collection.  "Sometimes they'll hold up the book and I'll say no and then I'll yell at them at a new one that I've just read.  I just want them to read, I want them to enjoy the books that I do," says Heard.

Following the expanding trend, Marlene says that her little library has already inspired others to start their own locally.