Meet at the Grand County Public Library at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 23, to begin the Little Free Library bicycle tour. [Photo by Rachel Fixsen / Moab Sun News]

Grab a helmet and get going on the Little Free Library bicycle tour with the Grand County Public Library on Saturday, June 23.

Little Free Libraries are sprouting up around Moab, and over the past few years — at the edge of sidewalks, on front lawns and beside businesses — each is born with a unique charm. They invite whimsical comparisons: some are built to resemble large bird roosts, doll houses or gnome homes. These are miniature public libraries, where it’s free to take or leave a book.

To know more about the Little Free Libraries and the people who host and manage them, the (full-sized) Grand County Public Library is taking people on a bicycle tour to visit eight locations sprinkled across town.

“This is the first time we’ve run a library bike tour, but hopefully not the last!” said Meg Flynn, head of adult services at Grand County Public Library.

Little Free Library is a registered nonprofit that promotes literacy and community spirit through these free book swaps.

The first Little Free Library was created in 2009 by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin. He built a covered, outdoor bookshelf designed to look like an old-fashioned schoolhouse, and mounted it in his yard as a memorial to his mother, who was a teacher and loved to read.

Bol and his partner later founded the Little Free Library nonprofit organization, and the concept has spread worldwide, with over 70,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 85 countries.

Not all of the book swaps in Moab are registered with the nonprofit, but they operate on the same simple rules: anyone can take or leave a book, at any time. For the tour, the Grand County Public Library will provide some books for participants to swap with along the way, and attendees may also bring their own volumes to trade.

Riders will meet with their bicycles at the Grand County Public Library at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 23, for the start of the tour.

All ages are welcome and helmets are encouraged.

Flynn and Jenna Woodbury, volunteer library board member, organized the event, and they’ve put together a map of Moab’s Little Free Libraries, which they will distribute on the morning of the tour. “We’re keeping the map under wraps until our event, in order to encourage participation,” Flynn said.

Participants can stay with the group or travel at their own pace using the map as a guide. Each of the eight Little Free Libraries will have a “passport” stamp for visitors to mark the stop on their maps. The ride is a chance to get familiar with the libraries, and also with the Moab residents who care for them.

Dave Schipper’s Little Free Library was one of the first to be built in Moab.

Schipper installed the Little Free Library by his house on 100 South in 2015 after a friend told him about the nonprofit. He said he liked the idea of a free book exchange.

“The reason it speaks to me,” Schipper said of the Little Free Library concept, “is from when I started traveling, back in the 1980s, I stayed in hostels from Singapore to Baja, and there would be shelves with books you could borrow. When you’re traveling on $10 a day, that’s like a dream come true. Now, I’m trying to give back.”

Schipper spends a lot of time working on his front lawn, he said, and often interacts with people stopping by to look at the Little Free Library.

He warmly remembers one visit, as he was working outside, when a beat-up car pulled up in front of his house and a little girl jumped out. She looked hesitantly at Schipper, then left a small bag of cookies in the miniature library before jumping back in the car, which pulled away.

Schipper’s Little Free Library is on the tour, and in addition to perusing the book selection, participants will be treated to coffee and muffins, provided by Love Muffin, on Schipper’s porch.

The tour will end at the Grand County Public Library, with more snacks and a drawing for prizes donated by several Moab businesses: Dave’s Corner Market, Love Muffin, Moab Cyclery, Moonflower Community Co-op, City Market and 98 Center.

Public library debuts the Little Free Library tour

“This is the first time we’ve run a library bike tour, but hopefully not the last!”

When: Saturday, June 23, at 8:30 a.m.

Where: Begins and ends at the Grand County Public Library, 257 East Center Street

Cost: Free