Books in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling Libraries of Wisconsin
by Stuart Stotts
This is a biography of Lutie Stearns, a woman who worked hard so that everyone, including the poor, could have access to books for free. But, more than that, this book is a biography of the libraries. They were boxes that lived in people's homes or stores or other public buildings. Every so often, the contents of these boxes were swapped out, so that the collections would be fresh. These boxes had rules and sign-out slips. They were numbered so that records could be kept. And today we even know some of the popular titles that were in these libraries--some are books we still read over a hundred years later like Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes. Some books were in different languages, because the country had many immigrants from various countries. And some books were damaged, but the borrowers were asked to pay to replace these.
Lutie fought for many things--the right for everyone to read, for free libraries around the country, and also for women's rights. She was a strong, progressive woman who made a difference in her state and in the country. But the difference her books make in hundreds of thousands of lives is what's really at the core of this wonderful book.
I will not soon forget Lutie Stearns the next time I visit a library. And I'll definitely think of her boxes of books whenever I visit a Little Free Library or receive a bookbox in the mail.