Little Free Sled libraries provide the slides for winter rides

Sledding in St. Paul after a winter storm
Ted Knapp (left), 8, of St. Paul, cheers from the back of the sled while sledding with his mom, Kate Knapp, 40, in St. Paul.
Caroline Yang for MPR News 2019

Updated: 6:10 p.m.

The idea behind the Little Free Library is pretty common throughout the country. If you need a book, pick a book.

That idea has bloomed into a new cold weather version, the "Little Free Sled Library." You might have heard NPR’s Ailsa Chang and Mary Louise Kelly talking about it earlier this week. An Instagram photo of the library has inspired others across the frozen plains to build their own.

MPR News host Tom Crann had a chance to speak to Tim Hereid of Minneapolis, the originator of this new twist on the idea.

Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.

It is inspired by the little free library, the book libraries. And what gave you the idea?

I wanted a way for any kid in the neighborhood who wanted to to be able to sled.

Our family — my wife and I and my two boys — live across from the Keewaydin sledding hill. This year, it's been really busy. I mean, as you can imagine, not a lot to do lots of people outside sledding. And we noticed more and more kids without sled.

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So I thought it would be easy enough to put some two by fours together make a sled corral. And so I put up a sign, little free sled library figuring people would understand the concept, stocked it with sleds and stood back to see what happened.

It's been really wonderful because there is a constant rotating number of sleds in there. We've had sleds come and go. There's always five or six in there. We've had runner sleds, lots of plastic sleds, inflatable sleds, foam sleds and something for everybody to try.

Some of the little free libraries are overflowing. Has that happened with your sled library?

Occasionally it does overflow. It always seems to kind of find a balance over the weekend, though. But there have been sleds in there that are too big sleds in there that are too small and fall out.

But pretty much, we do find a balance. And you know, it's great. I see neighbors going over there to kind of organize everything, make sure everything is contained. Of course, the kids even do it themselves. So it's been great.

And everyone's putting them back? None of them have disappeared?

Well, they come and go and I think that's how little free libraries work. We've had sleds come and go, [and] come back. Sometimes they don't, but new sleds replace them. And I think that's kind of how it all works.

So for your own kids, what are they getting out of this or sort of learning from this experience?

They're very excited. They like to point it out to every other kid. Every time they go over to the sledding hill. They're both doing online school, so their recess is sledding. And so they go over there every day. Sometimes they bring our sleds, sometimes they just use what's in the library. And they're very proud to point out that it was our family who made it.

What else you want people to know about this experience?

We live in a world of abundance, but it's not available to everyone. And so I think little things like this can really help. I think everyone's done a great job, especially in my neighborhood, of doing their part this year. And I hope there can be other ideas like this.

My wife and I are considering putting up a little free building brick library of like Legos and Lincoln Logs and other things. I just hope there are more ideas like this to kind of share the wealth.

Are you or someone you know doing something special to help people get through the winter?We want to hear about it. You can send an email to tell@mpr.org.


Editor’s note (Feb. 5, 2020): Since this piece was originally published, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has removed the sled library and another in north Minneapolis. A spokesperson said they were removed from park property because the unsupervised activity could become a liability. The Park Board has also issued a notice saying that ice carousels and ice baths are not allowed without a permit. The spokesperson referred residents to the department's Fun on the Run and Adventure Hub programs for rentals and supervised activities. Hereid said that he and his neighbors are disappointed the sled library was removed and that they are asking the park board to reverse their decision.