In Laurie, the Little Free Library now open at the Hillbilly Fairgrounds, near the Boy Scout Shelter House, is deeply personal for Keith Schroeder. The Westsider lost his wife Ellen to leukemia in October.

Sometimes it’s done to support kids and community, sometimes in memory of a loved one, but it’s always about spreading the love. 

Little Free Libraries are a growing movement around the country after being established in Wisconsin in 2010. Originating from a tribute to a mother, more than 2,508 of the “take a book, leave a book” kiosks had popped up around the country by 2012.

They’re also spreading around the Lake of the Ozarks region.

In 2017, the Lake Sun talked with Bruce and Susan Collier who established a small free library, independent of the national organization, on Passover Road in Osage Beach near Osage Beach Parkway and the Expressway. 

At initial start-up, Collier reported daily turnover in the available books. Local residents and tourists often walk Passover Road.

An avid reader, Susan Collier was inspired in her endeavor by an episode of “Last Man Standing” that included a neighborhood free book exchange. She thought it was a great idea and was encouraged to act after seeing a similar book exchange on a later trip to Arizona.

Their Corner Library was born made from a defunct wine cooler with a convenient glass door and protection from the elements. A note on the inside explains: Free lending library; borrow/return/enjoy.

“It’s a public service offered for the community to enjoy,” said Susan.

Now two more freestanding library kiosks have been established in Lake Ozark and Laurie.

The Lake Ozark Police Department actually initiated the library there as community outreach. The LOPD library is located in front of the police station/city hall at 3162 Bagnell Dam Blvd.

The department built the library kiosk through a grant from the national Little Free Library organization, then held a community book drive to fill it up with a range of books for all reading levels.

According to information from the LOPD, they hope to “encourage reading in Lake Ozark among all ages.”

The concept is simple, “Share your old books by leaving them there, and take a new one to read!”

A grand opening event for the Little Free Library in Lake Ozark was held March 31. Corporal Jarrett read some of his favorite Dr. Seuss books to local youth before adding them to the library for regular service to commence. 

In Laurie, the Little Free Library now open at the Hillbilly Fairgrounds, near the Boy Scout Shelter House, is deeply personal for Keith Schroeder.

The Westsider lost his wife Ellen to leukemia in October. She passed away within weeks of her diagnosis after collapsing in late September.

“We always had a good time together. She was always funny,” said Keith. 

Originally from Minnesota, the couple shared many happy years together and three children.

Ellen loved to read and, after retiring to the Lake area, was a member of a local book club and the librarian at Ozark Chapel United Methodist Church. 

In her memory, Keith decided one of the little libraries would be something that Ellen would have liked. 

He built the miniature cottage with cedar shingles himself — they had often shared DIY projects — then had help from Barb Dillman and the rest of Ellen’s book club in filling it with books to get the library started.

After getting permission from the Laurie Board of Aldermen, Keith along with some friends and family dedicated the little library on March 31, and it is now open for exchange.

So when you’re out and about in the Lake area, keep an eye out for these libraries, and possibly little free libraries elsewhere in the community. Pick up a book and leave a book, and share the love.

Past reporting by Dan Field contributed to this story.