Our Most Excellent Book Bombing Adventure

First of all, before you call the FBI, “book bombing” does NOT involve explosives or violence of any kind. If you are disappointed by that fact, then this is definitely not the blog for you. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Book bombing involves gathering up a bunch of boxes of books (preferably in excellent condition), picking an area that you’d like to explore, and then looking up that area on the maps page of littlefreelibrary.org to see where these delightful little libraries are located. Then you plot your route and visit them one by one, leaving books as you go. It’s great fun!

And while I do wish I could come up with a better name for this activity, currently “book bombing” is the phrase of choice. Some people have suggested “book blessing”, but I personally find this a bit too cheesy. I’m open to suggestions.

I can’t take credit for this idea. I first heard about this from Dan and Trina Wiswell, fellow library stewards, who have raised book bombing to an art form. They travel far and wide, spreading literacy as they go. They have become experts at obtaining books at little or no cost, and sharing the wealth with their fellow stewards. They’ve even visited my library. It was a pleasure meeting them and getting some desperately needed children’s books.

Since then, I’ve wound up with a surplus of books of my own, thanks to the local PTA of the nearest elementary school. Aside from my usual backlog, there are currently 8 large boxes of books in my garage. And I would much rather get those books in the hands of readers, instead of having them gather dust and take up space.

On the day in question, the math was rather simple, really:

Surplus books + the first really sunny day off in months = ROAD TRIP!!!!

We decided that we’d book bomb both Snoqualmie and Issaquah, Washington. That’s a beautiful area, but not so far away that we couldn’t do it in an afternoon. That, and it’s rural enough to where a new influx of books would most likely be greatly appreciated. So we enjoyed the scenery, and got onto a few little back country roads that we had never had the chance to enjoy before.

First on the agenda, though, was a lovely little side trip to Snoqualmie Falls. Not only are these falls beautiful, but they’re also extremely close to the parking lot, so it’s hard to resist stopping by whenever we’re in the neighborhood. And they look different from one season to the next, so it’s quite the treat.

After having satisfied our falls craving, we went to five little free libraries in Snoqualmie, and two more in Issaquah, before it became too dark to see what we were doing. And we moved a lot slower than the average book bomber would, because I was not only taking pictures for this blog post, but also nominating the ones in Snoqualmie to be Pokestops in the Pokemon Go application. (It’s every savvy steward’s dream to have their library become a Pokestop, because it draws children to the location. Sadly, I can only nominate so many at a time, so I’ll have to come back later to nominate the ones in Issaquah.)

We really enjoyed seeing the different neighborhoods. And it was fun to see different little free library designs and ideas. They had a lot of really good ones.

First of all, the little free libraries in Snoqualmie had gotten together to do a scavenger hunt in honor of National Day of Unplugging! They even provided little sleeping bags for one’s cell phone to get people into the spirit of things. What fun!

We encountered one that was designed like a little red caboose, and that complimented the actual, life-sized caboose in the people’s side yard. That was amazing. And when you opened this library, it was full of free slap bracelets. I had never thought of that. I’m going to have to look into those, because they can also double as bookmarks. (Many of the libraries included great bookmarks, either home made or purchased, too.)

I was delighted to see one library in front of the local elementary school. It was made by the local girl scout troop out of a repurposed newspaper dispenser. And all along the sides it was covered in children’s book titles. Two thumbs up for that one! The library was empty of books, so we filled it to overflowing!

Another one was made from an antique vegetable cupboard. Only small books could fit in that one, but it was very cute. And it had a yellow food pantry beside it, and a bench where people could sit and read. Another had a milk crate below so the little kids would have an easier time browsing.

My favorite of the day, though, was in the boonies of Issaquah. It had not only two little free libraries, but also a bridge over a ditch that led to a shed where you could get out of the weather, and that shed was full of puzzles! There was also a bench outside for nice weather. It was a wonderful literary world all its own. I longed to spend more time there, but it was getting dark. I’ll definitely be back.

All in all, it was a very satisfying afternoon. The time flew by, we saw some wonderful places and things, and we shared books with the wider world. It felt really good to have fun and do some good at the same time.

I highly recommend book bombing, no matter what you might decide to call it. Below are photos of the amazing places we visited.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

What NOT to Put in a Little Free Library

I’ve operated my little free library for nearly two years now, and during that time I’ve also been a member of two little free library Facebook groups, so I’m in constant communication with little free library stewards from across the globe. While I haven’t personally seen it all, I can say that I’ve seen enough vicariously to know that people can be strange. Yes, they can also be generous and kind, as most of my patrons are, but the strange ones are more humorous to write about.

For some reason, a small, special percentage of the population view these libraries as dumping grounds for the things they don’t want. Here are some things that have been put in these libraries:

  • Garbage.
  • Various articles of clothing. (If the library doubles as a clothing drop place, then okay, but make sure the stuff is clean. But I can’t emphasize this enough: Nobody wants your used underwear.)
  • Food items. (If the library doubles as a food pantry, then make sure the food isn’t opened, half-eaten or expired. But it’s very obvious when a little library does NOT double as a food pantry, so please respect that.)
  • Books with water damage, smoke damage, or mildew.
  • Controversial books such as Mein Kampf or The Anarchist’s Cookbook. (I don’t believe in censorship, but these books require context that is hard to provide in this forum.)
  • All manner of creatures, alive or dead. (If you don’t want them in your house, why should anyone else?)
  • Items of furniture. (This isn’t Sanford and Sons.)
  • Textbooks or encyclopedias from 1984. (Just because you feel guilty getting rid of obsolete books does not mean you should force us to do so for you.)
  • Drugs.
  • Books that are falling apart or that have missing pages.
  • Books that your child covered in doodles.
  • Books that have been chewed on by anyone or anything.
  • Mixed media books that are missing the other media.
  • Old ratty magazines.
  • Pornography.
  • Ammunition. (C’mon. Seriously?)
  • Hate speech.
  • Pamphlets, flyers or coupons.
  • Junk mail.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Things that any sane person would normally flush down a toilet.
  • Books with such a limited audience that no one will probably take them, such as “Embalming: Best Practices”.

Also, remember that these libraries aren’t just for you. They’re for the entire community.

  • Please don’t completely empty them of books in one visit.
  • Please don’t vandalize them.
  • Please don’t take books out for the purposes of resale. (We’re trying to get books into the community for those who can’t afford them or don’t have access to them otherwise. We’re not here for you to sell these things on Amazon. A small portion of library stewards don’t mind this, but for the life of me, I don’t understand why. It constitutes a community theft as far as I’m concerned.)
  • Please don’t steal the log book! We like hearing from people! Why would you want our log books? (You’d be amazed how often this happens.)

There are a few odd things that I personally really enjoy getting in the library, and don’t mind leaving for others, but if you’re planning to put these things in another little free library, check with the steward and make sure it’s okay with them first.

  • Rubber Duckies.
  • TINY, unbroken toys.
  • Painted rocks.
  • Pretty bookmarks.

I know this post seems a little complain-y, but you’d be amazed at what we stewards encounter. I will say, though, that the vast majority of my library patrons are generous, kind, and thoughtful. They love the library as much as I do, and take good care of it. For the most part, this library has restored my faith in humanity, and it is one of the best projects I have ever undertaken.

Keep reading, y’all.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

How Great Ideas Grow

I bet it started when a garbage collector saw a book that was in great shape and was destined for the landfill. “I’ll just take this home and read it,” he probably thought. And just like that, something that was designated as garbage was rescued from that undignified fate.

It could have ended there, but it didn’t. A few garbage collectors, in Ankara, Turkey, decided they’d make a little library of their rescued books, for use by employees and their families. This little library would double as a break room. A simple, yet elegant solution for book lovers, as well as for books not ready to die.

But then word got out, and people started donating their unwanted books. The garbage collectors now house the library/break room in a former brick factory. It has 25,000 books. And now it’s open to the public.

It could have ended there, too, but it didn’t. According to this article, “Workers have converted a garbage truck into a small mobile library to bring books they collected to nearby schools and other district libraries.”

Now, isn’t that brilliant? Literacy takes flight. Tons of books are rescued from the landfill. The community has another resource. And it all started with one book and one garbage collector.

It may just be a little free library that got out of control, but its impact is immeasurable to the people of that community. This makes me very, very happy.

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Little Free Libraries at Every Turn!

I just read an article that filled me with glee. A little free library has been placed at the South Pole! That alone is amazing, but it’s even more so when you consider that that means there are now little free libraries on all seven continents! Isn’t that wonderful? We are united, it seems, in a love of reading and sharing.

These libraries come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen little free libraries made of hollowed out tree stumps, vending machines, newspaper boxes, refrigerators, phone booths, microwaves, and all sorts of creative wooden designs. Some, like mine, have living roofs. Some are miniatures of the houses they sit in front of. Some come with benches. Others double as food pantries. These libraries are only limited by the imagination.

Interested in having a little free library of your own? Check out this website for more information. Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, here are some pictures of the little free libraries I’ve encountered, along with some from other parts of the world that were sent to me via the Pokemon Go app. Enjoy!

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Mid-Month Marvels: LINC

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’m calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

After my little project to get books to needy children, a friend (Hi, Sam!) told me about LINC, or LiteracyINC, which is an organization in New York City which does the same thing on a much, much larger scale. I decided to look into this program. What I see on their website is very impressive.

As they so aptly describe it, “LINC provides a scaffolding of support that increases both children’s and parents’ access to literacy-building opportunities, raises expectations, generates an understanding of grade-level literacy skills, and provides simple reading strategies to support parents in helping their children, regardless of their own ability to read or speak English.”

These are concepts near and dear to my heart. And I’m even more impressed by the many different programs they operate. They hold workshops for parents to teach them “literacy strategies to use at home and to make literacy a part of a family’s daily routine.” They have another workshop to prepare parents to be classroom volunteers.

They also have several school programs. In one, they pair older students with K-2nd grade students. They become reading buddies. That is awesome. They also build strong parent/teacher collaborations. In addition, they go into senior centers and link them with second grade students. That’s called the Great Grandreader Program. What’s not to love?

LINC also holds street fairs and celebrations at local libraries and they hold book drives. They partner with local and corporate businesses, PTAs, NGOs and community centers.

Truly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this wonderful organization does. You’ll find much more on their website. I hope you’ll join me in supporting them! When our children become successful readers, we all thrive.

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Help Your Local Little Free Library!

There are things you can do that won’t cost a penny.

Everyone who curates a little free library has one thing in common: a desire to promote literacy and the love of reading. To do that, we are continually looking for ways to spread the word about our library’s existence. It’s a constant effort, but I have yet to find a steward who doesn’t look at it as a labor of love.

Many of us have Facebook groups for our libraries. We also make announcements on Nextdoor.com, and in community forums. We proudly place our location on the littlefreelibrary.org location map so people who are looking for ones located near them will find them.

But, if you talk to enough stewards, you quickly learn that the best way to spread the word about your library, the ne plus ultra of grapevines, is to have your library turned into a pokestop in the Pokemon Go app. Then, players of this popular game can see your library on the virtual horizon from blocks away. There might be a library within walking distance that you wouldn’t otherwise know about!

It takes some effort for pokestops to happen, though. You have to either reach level 38 in the game yourself, or know someone who has who is willing to come to your library and nominate it as a pokestop. If it were up to us stewards, all little free libraries would instantly become pokestops. Sadly, that’s not possible.

There is much envy on the little free library forums of the pokestop “haves” by the pokestop “have nots”. When I posted the great news that my library became one, one of the milder comments was “I’m so stinkin’ jealous!” So, once I became able to nominate libraries myself, I decided to add that to my goals to promote literacy.

On a recent day off, on a rare sunny winter day in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to look up libraries near me on the library map, and plot the shortest route from library to library. For the next several hours, I visited each location, and checked to see if they had pokestops or not. If they didn’t, I nominated them.

This takes a little work. It requires the taking of photographs and much typing. This sometimes drew attention. When I told the first steward what I was doing, I think he would have picked me up and spun me around out of pure joy if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic. Such was his ecstasy. He was jumping up and down on his front porch. That definitely added to the fun.

Another fun part was visiting neighborhoods I’d never been in, and seeing the variety of libraries out there. Some double as food pantries. Some also give out painted rocks. Best of all, I got to imagine how many more children would find these books thanks to Pokemon Go. It was like a little free library scavenger hunt! It was a good day.

At the end of it, every registered library in Kent, Auburn and Covington, Washington was nominated. Below are pictures of some of the libraries I visited. There is no guarantee that my nominations will be accepted by the good folks at Pokemon Go, but it’s worth a shot. And if they are accepted, it could take anywhere from a few days to several months for it to show up in the game. But it’s worth it if it draws kids to those books.

Anyone can help spread the word about these libraries far and wide! If you don’t play Pokemon go, tell your friends on social media about little free libraries near you. And if you are a player who is high enough up in the game to nominate pokestops, won’t you help your local little free libraries promote literacy? Either way, go to https://littlefreelibrary.org/, click on the map, and look up the libraries in your area. Tell people about them, and/or nominate as many “un-pokestopped” libraries as you can. You just might turn a curious child into a reader, and that might make all the difference!

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The Side Effects of Spreading Joy

I’ve often thought that if I had to stay in an emergency shelter due to some natural disaster, I’d volunteer at that shelter. It would sure beat sitting there, feeling terrified or in shock or completely and utterly helpless. What can I do? Scrub toilets? Do paperwork? Read to children? Pass out toothpaste? Anything?

I’m now even more convinced that I’d want to do that. I created a project for myself recently, and it was even more satisfying than I anticipated. I learned so much from it. Much of what I learned I wasn’t expecting.

It occurred to me that due to the pandemic, a lot of people would be struggling to give gifts this holiday season. Having identified a problem in my mind, I set about trying to think of ways to solve it. Gazing out the window at my little free library (I do that more than I care to admit), it occurred to me that books make great gifts. But I’d want people to be able to give brand new books, and they aren’t cheap.

Okay, first I needed to obtain the books. So I set up a Gofundme campaign, asking for donations. I set a goal of $500. It started off slow, because folks were more focused on the election and all the stress that was causing. But once that was behind us, people really became generous.

When I got 550 dollars, I was thrilled! I started doing research as to where I could get the biggest bang for my buck. I asked people on the Little Free Library Stewards Facebook group, and got a lot of great suggestions about bulk sellers and scholastic type organizations. There are dozens of publishers out there if you search.

Finally, I settled on Usborne Books, because Jordan, their independent consultant, contacted me and said that for every dollar I spent, they’d give me an additional 50 cents worth of books! So my 550 dollars turned into 825 dollars just like that! Woo hoo! And I have to say that the quality of the books I received was outstanding. (Here’s Jordan’s webpage, if you’re interested in working with her.)

With Jordan’s expertise, I was able to focus mainly on book collections where the individual books could stand alone. I didn’t want books that required reading book one before you could move on to book two. But book collections are much more affordable per unit than individual books are. After I placed the order, two big boxes of books arrived at my door in no time flat. They were for a variety of age groups. I was so excited!

And then, after that, another 50 dollars rolled in. What to do? Get more books, of course, but where in this short timeframe? I went to the dollar store and got a bunch there. Then I happened to look at the books at Costco, and found some collections there. Not as cheap as I’d like, but not bad. So I threw in a collection of Dr. Seuss books and a collection of Newberry Award books, such as Charlotte’s Web. I received a few donations of new books as well.

I went home and piled all the books on the dining room table. 180 books in all. Holy cow. That’s a lot of books. The pictures below are only a few of those.

I knew I didn’t want to gift wrap the books in advance, because every child, every person, is different. I also knew that parents would prefer looking at the books to make sure they were appropriate to their values and their child’s interests and reading level. But the theme of this whole project was that books make good gifts, so I decided to cut some Costco wrapping paper to the proper size for each book, and put that wrapping paper inside the book. Once the gift was chosen, they would then have the wrapping paper to wrap it with.

Speaking of the appropriateness of this project, I wanted to appeal to the widest audience possible, so I made sure that none of the books were religious or political. And I also used neutral, or, at the very least, winter-themed wrapping paper. These books don’t have to be Christmas presents. They could be for Hannukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Festivus, Birthdays, whatever. That was very important to me.

Not for nothing, cutting wrapping paper for 180 books is quite the undertaking. Yes, I watched Netflix as I worked. Even so, thank goodness Dear Husband lent a hand, or I’d probably still be sitting there, aching back and all.

Here’s the part of the project where I started to panic. How would I get these books into the hands of people who needed them the most? This was more of a challenge than I first thought.

Not even in my wildest dreams would 180 books leave my little free library within a month, unless I really advertised. Unfortunately, if I spread the word on community forums, I would also risk attracting book resellers. These resellers have been known to steal the entire contents of little free libraries, and then sell the books on Amazon. That would defeat my purpose of getting these books to people who couldn’t afford to buy books. All my work would have been for naught. So I would need to get creative.

Where would I find families in need? Hmm… my first thought was the local women’s shelter. And then after listening to a heartbreaking story on NPR, I also thought of the food bank. I contacted both agencies, and they were quite happy with my idea. So I divided the books into 3 piles: 60 books for the women’s shelter, 70 for the food bank, and 50 for my little free library.

The women’s shelter was easy. I simply dropped off the box of books with the director. They were very happy to have them. Done.

The food bank turned out to be a lot of fun. We were allowed to set up a table, outside, next to the food bank line, and we could talk to people as they came in. “Would you like to give someone a book? It’s free.”

There was a bit of a feeding frenzy at first. Some people took more books than they had children. I had to put a stop to that. I wanted to spread the love. Some people were really shy, and had to be encouraged to take one for each child. Others thought they’d have to pay for them.

A great deal of the people in line at the food bank barely spoke English, and were thrilled to get books so their children could assimilate into the culture in advance of going to school. And reading those books to the children would help them practice the language, too. I could just imagine a mother sitting with her toddler, saying, “See? In English, a dog says ‘woof’.”

In about 2 hours time, the food bank books were gone, and I had a silly smile on my face. Now I was left with just the 50 books for the little free library. I didn’t want to put them out all at once, because of book resellers. I decided to put out about 8 at a time and replenish as needed.

Unfortunately, they weren’t moving. I even did a big sidewalk chalk sign that said, “Books make great gifts!”. Still nothing. Sigh.

Finally, I decided to post information about it on my little free library’s Facebook group page and hope for the best. After chatting with a few of the regular patrons, they asked for some books for families they were trying to help out. They gave me the ages of the children in question, and I put together packages for them to pick up. It was fun, choosing the books for each child. I felt like Santa’s helper.

I also reached out to a few local educators that I know, and asked them to spread the word among parents. I have about 30 books left, and that’s a workable number for my little free library. It’s amazing. I’ve given out 150 books so far!

As I said, this project has taught me much. First of all, I’m getting back just as much joy as I’m giving out. This has been a truly gratifying experience. Second, I’ve met a lot of amazing, generous, and hardworking people that I would never have talked to otherwise, and that has been a thrill during all this isolation.

That leads me to the biggest lesson of all. I’ve been spending a lot of time, just like everyone else, stressing out about the pandemic, the social unrest, the political unrest, and the environment. I have been in a very dark place, as have we all. But while I worked on this project, I didn’t focus on any of that. I didn’t think of Trump even once. I just poured everything I had into this positive act, and I can’t begin to describe how good it felt.

So my recipe for getting out of a dark place is to shine a light. If you do that, it will come back to you. And there’s nothing like it. Those who are obsessed with greed and hate have no idea what they’re missing.

Happy holidays, dear reader.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Books for Kids this Holiday Season

Hi everybody!

Many holidays are closing in on us, and thanks to this pandemic, a lot of families are struggling to make ends meet, let alone provide gifts to their children. Here’s your chance to give the gift of literacy this holiday season!

While I’m generally loathe to ask for money on this blog, I think this is a good cause. I have started a GoFundMe account in an effort to bring this all about. Here’s the exact description on the page:

Families are struggling this holiday season. Many parents will not be able to give their children gifts like in better times.

I know that the families in my neighborhood really appreciate my little free library. It’s the Clark Lake Park Little Free Library #87847 in Kent, Washington. (Join us on Facebook!) I would like to encourage families to see these books in the library as potential gifts to give their children.

I plan, right after Thanksgiving, to stock my library full of brand new books, and provide non-denominational wrapping paper as well.

Benefits:
It promotes literacy.
It takes some financial pressure off parents. (I will also be providing adult books for children to give their parents, but I don’t need funding with this. I have plenty of those types of books.)

Problem:
Childrens books are so popular that I can’t keep them in stock. They fly off the shelves.
I would like these books to be brand new, and that costs money.

Your gift will help give a child a happy holiday. I’m hoping to get these funds by 11/14 so that I have time to make the book purchases. If I exceed my goal, I’ll buy even more books to give out throughout the year!

I also would appreciate any donations of children’s books, any time!

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

If you are willing and able to participate, check out the GoFundMe page here. And I would appreciate it if you share this post with your friends and family in any way that you can!

Thank you, and happy holidays to all!

-Barb

Taller Leñateros

While aimlessly surfing the web in hopes of finding something to blog about, I came across a fascinating little publishing collective called Taller Leñateros. It is located in a little town in the state of Chiapas, Mexico called San Cristóbal de las Casas. It consists of a group of modern Mayans who are keeping their traditions, and the Tzotzil language, alive.

Their website is equal parts delightful and confusing. It lists their extensive catalog of books, postcards, and posters. They make their own paper and ink in the traditional Mayan way, so each item in the catalog is a work of art. Indeed, some have won awards. If you are interested in a specific title, you then have to (unfortunately) write it down, and then go to the “sales” page and check it off. The prices are only listed in Mexican Pesos, so you then need to find a currency converter to figure out what everything costs. I have no idea how they determine shipping and handling, or if they can even ship internationally, because I have yet to purchase anything, but I plan to, if possible.

Their books are full of Mayan poetry, songs, art, incantations, and stories, and can be purchased in English. Each one is beautiful and intriguing. Published by hand, I’m sure they will be collectors’ items.

Here is a tiny taste of the first few paragraphs of their beautifully written “about” page:

“We are the woodlanders who walk in the hills gathering dry branches and deadwood from fallen trees, collecting firewood without chopping down the forest. We come down from the mountains, carrying bundles of wood, of pitchpine and split encino, for the hearths of the Royal City of San Cristobal de Las Casas. We walk through the mist, leading our burros, selling firewood from house to house. We knock on people ’ s doors, offering pine needles as well, to spread on the floor, moss, flowers of bromeliads and orchids for manger scenes.

“Thirty years ago we rented an old adobe house in San Cristobal and we planted a little avocado tree in the patio. The sprout took root and grew and now it’s as tall as the tree where the Moon showed the first Motherfathers how to weave. The house shrank under the shadow of the leaves and filled up with dreams and we called it a «Workshop,» first «of Dreams»and then «Woodlanders’» Something between theatre and witchcraft.”

I hope you will take the extra effort required to support this collective, because according to this article, they’re struggling to survive. Their headquarters are on a dusty little side street in a dusty little town in Southern Mexico. And while they’ve been there since 1975, someone is trying to push them out, and they’re mired in lawsuits. I hope they find a way to keep going. I hope someone helps them improve the website and ramp up their online sales. I think if the world really knew about them, they would not only survive, but thrive. I wish them Lekuk me avo’ra. (Good luck.)

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

An Annoying Opinion about Little Free Libraries

In the interest of full disclosure, I operate a little free library, and it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Based on community feedback, it has also become an important part of the neighborhood. I am proud to take part in any endeavor to increase literacy.

So when I read an article entitled, “Are Little Free Libraries helping locals survive COVID? L.A. weighs in” I struggled to avoid taking many of the criticisms therein personally. I get that it’s an opinion piece. The majority of my blog posts (including this one) are opinion pieces. But this article hit me where I live.

The very first paragraph set my teeth on edge. It discussed a LFL curator’s irritation at finding a Star Trek novel in his box, and one that is in the middle of the series, no less. He said, “Why do people give away unreadable books?”

This curator is missing the point. If you’re trying to promote literacy, you have to appeal to a wide variety of readers. Not every tome is the great American novel, and, for that matter, not every reader is looking for the great American novel. There are plenty of people out there who love to read Star Trek, in or out of sequence.

Yes, you should curate your library. I’m not going to leave porn or three volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica or books that peddle false information in my box. But are a lot of the books in my box books that I would never read myself? Yes. This is not “Barb’s Bookshelf”. It’s a humble little library to encourage people to read.

Another person interviewed for the article complained that she took a book from a LFL and it turned out to be awful, and that seems to have put her off ever using this resource again. Oh, come on. Who hasn’t read a book that turned out to be awful in one’s lifetime? You can get awful books from the library, from a bookstore, and from Amazon. Awful books exist. It’s the chance you take when you’re a reader.

Another person said that these libraries are eyesores and “supposedly-cute trash receptacles full of books that should have never been published.”

Where did this author find so many snobs? It astounds me. I’m so sorry that we don’t all meet your highbrow standards. We, the great unwashed, have as much right to read whatever we want as you do. If you don’t like little free libraries, don’t use them. It’s that simple. But most LFLs that I come across are places of community pride. Yes, you’re going to see neglected, run down ones here and there, but most are well kept.

Another person said that these libraries are “a place where books go to die.”

First of all, if I notice a book has not moved in quite some time, I remove it from my library and replace it with something else. That’s what responsible stewards do. I also recycle books that have been donated to me that are water stained or are crumbling to dust. My library is no trash receptacle. But I can’t afford to constantly buy pristine, shiny, brand new books to make sure my inventory meets with your approval. Sorry.

Another interviewee said, “We would never take a nice book of ours and put it in that trash-depository bookshelf…We can’t support that situation, you know?”

To that I say, “Why is that, exactly? Afraid your nice book might get pawed over by some dirty blue collar worker who needs something to read on his sweaty lunch break? Worried that someone who’s used to lower quality books might develop a taste for something better? Worried you might start a trend toward ‘better’ books in your neighborhood? Gasp! Scandalous!”

Yes the author posits that these “curbside bookhouses” are no educational substitute for a robust library system, but newsflash: We aren’t trying to be. We’re just providing access to books for those who can’t or won’t access them any other way. Most public libraries seem to appreciate that, and aren’t threatened by our modest efforts.

The article purports to be an opinion about LFLs and COVID, and yes, it does mention the current fear of touching anything, let alone books. Yes, I tend to use the hand sanitizer I provide, or wash my hands, before and after rummaging through my library, but let’s not overlook the fact that more and more cases of COVID are being found to be caught via airborne droplets, not physical touch. Wash your hands, yes. Wear a mask, definitely. Quarantine books before reading them if it makes you feel more comfortable.

But the main purpose of this article seems to be to portray little free libraries as the inferior, pedestrian pursuit of people who don’t understand what good literature is. And therein lies the crux of the problem with this article. It’s that sort of elitist attitude that makes these libraries so vital.

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