Adriana Briscoe

About five years ago, a new trend started to spread throughout Mount Prospect: little free libraries. The idea behind these libraries is that for every book people put into the library, they can take a book out.

However, since schools and businesses are closing due to the spread of COVID-19, people have recently started putting food in them as well. 

Colleen Bartjen, mother of freshman Sarah Bartjen and class of ‘19 Prospect alum Grace Bartjen, set up her own little free library a couple years ago. She asked an engineer to build it for her, she decorated it herself, and then she put books in there for all ages.

“It’s actually an excellent impact on the community because I see kids getting books out of there every day,” Bartjen said. “ … everybody in the community is grabbing books and putting books back and I think it’s a good thing.”

Being a teacher’s assistant at Kirk School in Palatine, a school for students with disabilities, she feels that it’s important for everyone to keep reading, regardless of age or ability.

“… I think reading is very important,” Bartjen said. “And especially with COVID-19, people have to read and keep their minds going because they don’t want to get depressed or lonely … and I think it’s bringing a whole new world to people.”

Bartjen mentioned that since many people are losing their jobs, the food can help them out.

“… if I can help somebody that lost their job today, then that would make me feel good, definitely,” Bartjen said.

According to Bartjen, to get a little free library, people can either just have someone build it for them or make their own, or they can sign up to have an official one by going to

If a library is official, that means it’s on the registry for the community it is in, so it shows up on the map on the website. 

Libraries people build themselves can be registered, and if a library is purchased through Little Free Library’s online store, it automatically becomes registered.

Overall, Bartjen believes that these libraries positively impact the whole community.

“I think it definitely helps people,” Bartjen said. “And even people who have money, it doesn’t matter; it’s just a friendly gesture of the community.”