Rick Brooks is a dedicated community builder who has initiated numerous community-based projects and experiments, including co-founding the Little Free Library
project, a movement that has spawned 60,000 registered Little Free Libraries in all U.S. states and over 80 countries around the world over the last six years or so. Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood gift-based book exchanges around the world. Millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds, and fostering a spirit of gift.
According to Rick
, “The Little Free Library movement developed after I saw a box of free books in the form of a one-room schoolhouse [in Wisconsin] …. It was my conviction that such a small object could carry a good deal of social freight, so to speak. … By focusing on generosity, sharing, mutual support and grassroots efforts, we could facilitate connections among neighbors and demographic groups that seemed to live near each other without really knowing how they could nourish a sense of community.”
“Little boxes of our favorite books seem to be able to make a difference,” Rick says. “They offer us an excuse to get to know each other by sharing what we love. … Obviously, this is all about something more than just books. … These so called ‘boxes of books’ have stimulated all kinds of practical attempts to nurture each other: Little Free Pantries. Neighborhood Gift and Blessing Boxes, Little Free Art Galleries. Rest stops for daily strolls and bike rides. Seed exchanges. Memorials. Places to remember and honor people we love.”
Rick has dedicated his life to community building. Until the age of 12, he lived in Wichita, Kansas. His experiential education began thereafter when his family moved to Kodaikanal, South India. It continued in Peru, Mexico, Tunisia, Jamaica and Sri Lanka as well as the United States. Vocationally, he started as a teacher of English in Peru, then worked as a park ranger while a Beloit College student of anthropology. From 1969, his “career path” saw him as a child care worker, hospital housekeeper, hospital administrator, newspaper reporter, editor and publisher, youth services director, then marketer and outreach program manager in Continuing Studies for the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 26 years.
As a teacher, he has served in K-12 schools, after-school programs, 2-and 4-year colleges, graduate and continuing studies programs.
Rick co-founded two youth communication centers, a network of youth newspapers, a center for social marketing, a community food and gardening network, a local independent business alliance, time bank, and eventually, the Little Free Library movement. He has also been active in the U.S. and abroad with the Sarvodaya Shramadana movement of Sri Lanka and Nepal, and served as a board member for more than 30 non-profit organizations ranging from a statewide food program (SHARE WI) and positive youth development initiative to literacy, microfinance, sustainability and human service groups.
He and his wife Sarah now live in rural Princeton, Illinois, where he helped start a regional Small Business Development Center and You Are Here
, which facilitates community-based arts and civic engagement projects.
Join us in conversation with this dedicated community builder!