So, there are these things called “Little Free Libraries.” You build a small, weatherproof box, stick it on a post in your front yard, and you put books in it. People can take books or add books. You keep it stocked up if it runs low and keep it fixed up. That’s about it.
Some neighbors of ours (the Springwater folks, who helped us build a retaining wall a few years ago), wanted to start a neighborhood library. I mentioned Little Free Libraries, and it seems several people had the same idea all at the same time. So Laura Jones, the librarian at Kelly Elementary –Ben’s school–got a grant, and a number of other folks from around the city contributed a design and did some preassembly work for eight or ten little libraries in our part of Lents.
Yesterday we had a building party at Kelly Elementary, with each library host family getting help assembling their library. Ours isn’t quite done yet (needs shingles, a nice doorknob and a little finishing work). The host families now have a few weeks to get them painted and ready to go up. Toward the end of February, the Springwater folks will come around and dig the postholes and pour the concrete, then come around again the next day to mount the libraries. There’ll be a neighborhood bike tour to see all the libraries, and we’ll be hosting a kickoff party at our house.
I’m a little excited about the whole thing: I’m really looking forward to keeping an inventory of the books in our little library, just to see what kind of use it gets. I’m hoping that ours, being across from a park, will see some use from the people who just come to hang out during nice weather and might like to have something to read while they’re sitting under a tree.
I’m also a little trepidatious, because I don’t want it to get vandalized. The flip side of living across the street from a park is that the pleasant people sitting under trees reading books by day are replaced by drunk assholes after 10:00 p.m. (Or teenagers dry-humping on the teeter totters, but they’re not usually interested in breaking anything.)
I’ve got a few ideas for our home’s library:
It might be fun to tag the books and do the occasional ride through the neighborhood to other little libraries to see if any of the titles migrate.
One of my neighbors is an Army Corps of Engineers mathematician, and he’s interested in a campaign to build a small web app so Lents librarians can keep track of their inventories online.
It seems like an easy hack to tear apart one of those solar-powered garden lights, hook the door up to a switch to make a little light come on, for after dark visitors who aren’t interested in vandalism. I’d thought about just mounting a light that would come on after dark, but that might be a beacon for trouble.
I’m sort of torn on the ideas that involve broadcasting the library’s presence. Having held a few garage sales where the book scanner people turn up in force, I don’t know if it would be a good idea for all our neighbors to plot interesting titles on a map. It was fun to think about building a library app and providing an API …
Would You Like to Help?
Since we’ll have to keep the library stocked up, donations are welcome. If you’ve got any books you’d like to contribute, I’d be happy to take them off your hands.
Better yet, if you do a zine or have published something you’d like to share, I’d love to include stuff like that in our library.
I’m sure I’ll have to go down to Goodwill or Value Village with a twenty now and then to stock back up, but the more original work I can include, the better. And self-published stuff you did on a shoestring is the very best: I’d really like it if our patrons could see and enjoy creative work that didn’t come from a big publishing house. You won’t just be sharing your words, you might be sharing a hint or a nudge.