Photo by George Lauby
Endorf and American Profile
Photo by Martin Owen
Endorf with Lloyd Synovek, who played the piano for Endorf in March and played at the WWII Canteen in the 1940s.
Charlotte Endorf loved the little libraries when she first saw them. They looked like big birdhouses, standing waist high on poles, each filled with a dozen or so books.
Endorf thought they would be a good fit for her little hometown of Hadar, population 293, so she installed some... and some more.
Her little project brought national recognition to her community of Hadar, about six miles north of Norfolk.
She now has not one, but eight little free library boxes outside her home. For that feat and what it represents in the process of building community, she was featured in the March 17-23 issue of American Profile magazine, as well in the April edition of Women’s Day magazine.
Endorf has also written a little book about the WWII North Platte Canteen. She brought the book to A to Z Books in North Platte March 23. She said she and her family moved to Hadar three years ago, and when they got there they realized there was no public library.
She is an avid reader. She said her husband would not let her rent a building and start a library. She was happy when she came across an alternative -- the Little Free Library program.
The “little free library” movement was launched in 2009 by a Wisconsin man, Todd Bol, in memory of his deceased mother, a school teacher. He made a little library box that resembled a one-room schoolhouse. He put books inside and let anyone who wanted take one and read it, asking only that they bring it back for others.
Others copied the idea, leading the man and a friend to create a nonprofit organization to map and market the libraries.
Caretakers pay $25 for a registration number and sign.
The founders wanted to see more than 2,500 little free libraries created across the country – the same number of the first public libraries in the U.S., funded by Andrew Carnegie.
They accomplished their goal and then some.
Move over Amazon.com.
Today, there are more than 7,500 little free libraries full of hardcover books, Endorf said. She has eight of them in her front yard.
The idea was so popular that Endorf's friends and family made a bunch of little library boxes. Her husband made some. Her father-in-law made one. A good friend’s dad made two. Her doctor made one. Another man donated a bench; another a flagpole; another some rock, creating a little outdoor reading and rest area in her yard.
When Endorf is home, she often talks to the children who come to her little free library. Sometimes grandparents bring their grandchildren, set on the bench and read together.
There has been no vandalism, not even trash left behind, she said. The children are good about bringing the books back. They know it's a vital part of the process.
Endorf became an author about 10 years ago, after her daughter contracted Lyme disease and never fully recovered. The two started writing as a joint project. So far, Endorf has written nine books, including several with her daughter.
Endorf focused on the orphan trains of the turn of the century that carried 250,000 children from the streets of eastern U.S. cities to homes in central states like Nebraska. She recently interviewed the only living former-orphan in Nebraska, 99-year-old Lela Newcombe, who lives in Columbus.
Endorf developed a presentation about the Orphan Trains, as one as one about Annie Oakley, that were accepted by the Nebraska Humanities Council, and she has traveled extensively across the state giving those presentations.
Her latest book is about the World War II North Platte Canteen, an easy-to-read book that conveys the scope and range of the Canteen through brief interviews with the people whose lives were touched by it.
Endorf is philosophical about the curves that life throws. She said if her daughter wouldn’t have contracted Lyme disease, the books wouldn’t have been written, and the little free libraries wouldn't have been built in her yard.