Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 5 – in praise of Little Free Libraries
Thank goodness for the Little Free Libraries which have popped up over the last several years in my neighborhood! With the public libraries closed during Lockdown, these are the source for books I would not have thought of reading an movies I would not have thought of watching. These little neighborhood oases of exchange are so welcome!
Each library has its own style. Some are shingled, some are stained wood, some are gaily painted. I’ve seen one made from a doll house, and one splash- painted with peace symbols. On my street is ones built into a stone pillar, with an accompanying bench seat if you can’t wait to start reading. One is decorated inside with origami flowers, and gives away origami bookmark. One gives away colored pencils, sharpeners, and erasers as well as books.
And each has its own literary personality. One offers a lot of teenage fantasy novels featuring magic and quests. One is almost exclusively filled with early-reader story books. One has a lot of classy trade paperbacks which look like they were originally purchased for a book club. Another features a variety of interesting non-fiction.
Of course, anything you put out for the public is liable to malicious abuse. A neighbor had worked with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to set up a Little Free Library in front of her house. The girls decided it would be good to make it into a food pantry during the Lockdown, and stocked it with canned goods and dried pasta. The next morning the door had been ripped off and the canned goods had been scattered around, dented, wrappers ripped off. The debate began – was it vicious mean-spirited teens, or was it racoons attracted by the food? A neighbor’s security camera settled the question several days later: it was a person, not an animal. Maybe he was crazy-mad because he was hoping to find a book? New hinges were bought, and the Little Free Pantry is open again, fingers crossed.
Each one of these carefully built, gaily decorated, and communally filled mini-libraries is like one of those magic boxes in fairy tales that, no matter how much you draw from it, is never empty, but always refills with a new treasure. Every time I pass one and open the door, I might find a book I will never want to give away. And if not, I’ll be able to try again. Thanks to all my librarian neighbors!