Just north of Flossmoor Road on Central Park Avenue in Flossmoor, there’s a Little Free Library next to the end of a driveway. As with all Little Free Libraries, you can take a book and leave a book. This Little Library is unique in that it’s adjacent to a community garden as well.
The Central Park Avenue community garden is along the edge of Tracy Latalladi’s front yard, right in front of the sidewalk. Plots of vegetables grow and are contained in small, wooden, planter beds. A black yard flag with a multicolored font is displayed. It says “Community Garden,” welcoming residents and passersby to take food from the garden.
On the side of the community garden is a connecting setup of eight square, plastic containers with front openings. “Little Free Library” and “Take a Book, Leave a Book” are painted across multiple containers. This is accompanied by drawings of books, flowers, hearts and the words: “You can find magic wherever you look, Sit back and relax and read a book”.
“We had a Little Free Library, and it was smaller. It was in like an old wooden cabinet, and it was falling apart," said Latalladi. "So, I got a new one, I re-did it and made it bigger. And then I was like, ‘well, ‘let’s do a little community garden next to it.'
“I do a lot of gardening. I have big gardens in my backyard. [...] The running joke in this family is ‘Where’s Tracy going to create a garden this year?' Because every year I’m adding a new one or making a bigger one or something like that.”
Little Free Libraries are owned and operated by homeowners, schools, organizations and businesses. Operators can pay a small fee and register their mini library on LittleFreeLibrary.org. This way, the Little Free Library can be put onto the world map where anyone can find it. Latalladi said she hasn’t registered her Little Free Library yet, but she plans to do so.
In both business-oriented and residential parts of town, there are more than a dozen Little Free Libraries in the Homewood-Flossmoor area. Latalladi said she and her family started the Little Free Library last summer.
Latalladi said she and her husband went to the Flossmoor Village Hall to ask if there were any ordinances against a community garden. According to Latalladi, village officials couldn’t find any ordinances, but they advised her to be careful of how much and what they plant, especially to avoid complaints about unsightly weeds.
“I planted pepper, regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash. I tried to think about what would be most common – what most people would like to enjoy – and what’s pretty easy to grow and maintain,” said Latalladi. “It’s still early in the season, but our squash and zucchini plants already have little blossoms and little baby squash growing.
“We’ve had a whole bunch of people in the neighborhood […] stop by and drop off books. And I’ve seen kids come by and taking books out of it. A lady today came and brought a bunch of new books. Every time we look in there, we see new books.”
“Once it gets later in summer and stuff is growing, people can come and grab a book and grab a tomato,” Latalladi said.