Free library owner takes idea to new heights

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) More than a year after free libraries began popping up around downtown, one family has taken the idea to another level.

Bernadette Ferguson chose to go big when becoming the latest steward for Wendy's Words Libraries, a program designed to encourage reading in honor of the late Wendy Wayne, a longtime humanitarian, philanthropist and children's advocate who died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 64.

"We decided to do one of the little free libraries because we thought it was a really good cause," Ferguson said. "We could give back to the community and you get to meet new people, so it's kind of fun."

Most of the free libraries can be found in front yards and look like oversize bird houses, but Ferguson's free library, a bright red London telephone booth replica, has added a splash of color to the neighborhood.

"We made it big and have big signs that basically say "free Library" so there's no question as to what it is," said Ferguson, who found the phone booth on Craigslist. "I think our goal in having one a little bit larger is hoping to spread awareness to other libraries so they get used, because that's the whole point of having them out. That people use them and enjoy them."

Wayne's widow, former Kern County Supervisor Gene Tackett, said his late wife would've loved seeing children and adults snagging books from the libraries.

"This is something that would really turn her on, having kids come and check out books and remember her grandkids," Tackett said. "This is a great honor for her and she would feel very good about this."

Most of the books found in the libraries are donated to the program. People are encouraged to borrow the books, but are technically not required to return them.

"It is an honor system," Ferguson said. "You can take a book. You don't have to have to return it if you don't choose to. It's great if you do. It's even greater if you bring us more."

"We put it up to be able to give back to our community, allow people to have something nice that we can share, they can share and help spread the joy of reading," she added.