KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Every week, Rachel Rodgers visits World's Fair Park with a canvas bag full of books.
She and her husband installed Rosie's Little Free Library earlier this year in honor of the baby they never got to see grow up.
"We opened it in memory of our daughter, who passed away before she was born. We wanted to contribute to the community in some way in her honor," Rodgers said.
The concept behind the nationwide Little Free Library initiative is simple. Read a book, share a book.
"A Little Free Library is a book exchange box that people place in communities. It’s a public exchange of books," Rodgers said.
She's watched her library grow from a mysterious box behind a tree to a staple that kids look for when they visit the park.
"It's neat to see all the kids reading. We get a lot of kids in the summer, and we get a lot of students from the high school nearby. It also serves the homeless population. It's been awesome to see the range of people who take books from the library," Rodgers said.
To keep the library running, Rodgers has to stock it with donations of her own, but she hopes one day readers will bring enough of their own books to make the library self-sustaining.
"We've received and donated at least 1,500 books in the past 10 months. We really get the books in three ways. We’ll get them donated by friends and family and strangers. We'll get them from book sales like the Friends of the Library sales. We had some donated from Sacred Heart Cathedral School Library, and we also get books that are placed back in the library when someone takes a book," Rodgers said.
She often donates books to other Little Free Libraries around town in what's called "book bombing." She said she recently dropped books off at the library in Concord that saw all of its inventory disappear in a single night.
"It's really made a way for us to talk to more people in the community. I've met more people through the Little Library than any other way," she said.
While she hopes the books inside the red box tucked behind the trees in World's Fair Park sparks a love of reading, the name on the box serves a deeper purpose.
"I want them [people] to know that every life is important, even if a baby doesn't get a chance to make her own legacy. That life is still important and valuable," Rodgers said.
Rosie's Little Free Library is always in need of book donations. You can drop them off at the red box in World's Fair Park or contact them on Instagram under @rosieslittlelibrary.