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Take a book, leave a book – The Little Free Library experiment

Posted in Things We Love, and Uncategorized

Little Free LibraryMy first library card was issued when I was 16, by a musty and dark librarian in a musty and dark building and, ambitious Nellie that I was, the first tome I checked out was “Anna Karenina”. To the Chelsea Library in London, I still owe my humble apologies for keeping a volume of Dylan Thomas’ poems: by the time they probably wrote to me I was already gone and the poems are still on my shelves, 20 odd years later. These days, my local library lets me download books on my i-Pad and they don’t mind when I beg them to let me keep reading for a little while longer than the customary two weeks.

As a book lover, I haven’t taken advantage of libraries as much as I should have, often tempted by impulse buying in stores, by Amazon and now, by the i-book store. But new books or virtual ones deprive us of the intimate relationship with those unknown readers who have all thumbed the same pages, let their eyes scroll down the same lines and were attracted to the same titles.

And how often have we travelled to remote locations, checked into small bed and breakfasts and were thrilled at finding the paperbacks that someone left behind, often leaving ours too, for the next weary traveller? It’s a way of keeping a story going, no longer read around a fire, but recounted one reader at a time, passing the books on and on and on.

images-1For all the talk of paper books disappearing, there is still a place for them. A couple of weeks ago, driving along a Santa Monica side street, I saw a pretty bookshelf placed in the median of the road, filled with books. What the hell? I thought. Next time I drove by, with the intent of taking a picture, it was gone. But the image stuck and a brief search online revealed the growing size of the Little Free Library movement.

Started in Wisconsin, it now features tiny libraries in all kinds of neighbourhoods in 45 American states and in dozen countries around the world. Small and pretty wooden containers, often looking like large bird houses, can be set up by anyone and filled with the same books we would otherwise be donating or recycling. The concept is “take a book, leave a book”.

Serious designers in locations like Manhattan have improved on the rural idea of the birdhouses, as this photos attests.

Little-Free-Library-by-Stereotank-2

While I revel in not having to sort my filled-to-capacity-bookcases anymore, I often reach back to the experience of the paper book, especially if it means being able to place it in the hands of someone else, followed by “you must read this”. Books as treasures, as stories, as nuggets of experience passed along to friends and strangers alike.

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If you are interested in starting your own Little Free Library, all you need is $25. You can read about it here.

Photos courtesy of Little Free Library

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12 Comments

  1. Janet Rörschåch
    Janet Rörschåch

    I just came across my first one the other day here in Boulder. Love this idea. When I get all my stuff from the Texas storage unit, I will take all the books I am not reading anymore and start my own. LOVE THIS! Thank you!

    September 4, 2013
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    • I want to start one too! My road is rather remote so, other than the neighbours, I am not sure who would stop by, but I would like to give at a shot and see.

      September 4, 2013
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  2. I appreciate the convenience of e-books but I hope paper books never go away.

    It’s sad to see how many bookstores have closed. I love browsing though bookstores and have spent many happy hours siting in libraries reading.

    I heard the big Barnes & Nobles in Westwood is gone.

    September 4, 2013
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    • Yes, very much gone. It’s a furniture store now (pretty cute may I add). There are fewer and fewer Barnes & Noble in LA. On the plus side, some interesting indie bookstores like Diesel in Malibu, Vroman’s in Pasadena, Book Soup in Hollywood seem to be doing ok. They are very much involved in community events, book clubs and authors’ tours which might be what moves people to spend a few bucks more and purchase from them. I do miss Feltrinelli. Do you ever go?

      September 4, 2013
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      • Yes, I still shop at Feltrinelli. I have one of their frequent customer cards which comes with some excellent discounts.

        Sometimes I do order English language books from Amazon.it but there are several indie bookstores in Rome. I try to support them as well.

        Book Soup, was my spot! They had so many great events.

        September 5, 2013
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    • There really isn’t a bookstore on the entire westside except for the B & N in Santa Monica. Sad.

      September 5, 2013
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  3. There are 3 Little Free Libraries within 1.5 miles of my house; one of them is about 200 yards away. I’ve been meaning to walk around and take photos so I can blog about it.
    The funny thing is that we are only a mile from a public library! I love my town.

    September 4, 2013
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    • The silence, the whispers….sometimes I go and work at the library just for the hush

      September 4, 2013
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  4. There’s one of these right in Pacific Palisades I noticed!

    September 3, 2013
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    • I was thinking of starting one here although I am not sure how many people would stop – other than neighbors

      September 4, 2013
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      • silvia
        silvia

        Yes you should definetely do that in your neighbourhood and don’t forget visitors who might increase the little “business”

        September 4, 2013
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