But now it's taking on a new cause to help people in need, and it's something that's spreading like wildfire across the world.
"I love it. I am so excited about this," said Claire House founder Tina Sipula.
Six months ago, Sipula heard a story on the radio about a global movement that started in 2009 called Little Free Library.
She said she instantly thought it was something the Twin Cities needed.
"People are texting and sitting in front of TVs, and they're not out on the porch anymore visiting with folks. Hopefully, this will change that a little bit and get us back into talking to each other," she said.
Shortly after hearing the radio story, she called her carpenter full of enthusiasm.
"I said, 'Mike, I'm so excited about this,' and he said, 'I'm excited too. I'll be right over,'" she recalled.
The two collaborated and ordered a pre-made Little Free Library from its parent organization, which is based in Wisconsin.
Sipula installed it right off the Clare House's sidewalk on Washington St. two weeks ago, hoping to inspire the folks who line up there for free food each week.
"What a fantastic idea in front of Clare House, since there are hundreds of people here every week," she said.
Now, those people and anybody else can not only get a free meal, they can also get a free book.
The library lets you drop off a book or pick one up, all without any sort of library card.
But the catch is you don't have to bring the book back if you don't want to.
"If you can't bring it back, that's okay too. Maybe you really like it and want to pass it on to somebody else," Sipula said.
So far the response has been positive.
Sipula said she is getting visitors at the library all the time.
"One woman came by and she was in a wheelchair, and she only has one leg. She lives in the neighborhood, and I said this is your library. And she said sign me up for a card and I said there are no cards, everything's just free," Sipula said.
And those stories aren't unique. Sipula said her library makes it easier for the homeless to get access to literature.
"You cannot go to the library and get a library card if you don't have an address," she said.
Now she is hoping to see more Little Free Libraries pop up across the Twin Cities.
"I'd like to see it all throughout the trail, all through the city," she said.
Little Free Libraries are in 48 states and 28 countries. Another central Illinois one is in Le Roy.