I have maintained a little free library out by the street in front of my house for a little over three years now. I knew I’d enjoy it because reading is kind of my thing. But I didn’t anticipate that I’d love the experience more and more each day. It’s truly one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done.
Usually, if I see someone at the library, I tend to keep my distance. Otherwise, I fear I might scare them off with my enthusiasm. It’s not a natural feeling for most people to take something out of a box in a total stranger’s yard. Even though I have various signs on the library explaining that these books are there for them, many people look nervous as they open the door, as if they’re expecting a siren to go off. So I usually give them their space. At most, I’ll smile and wave if they see me.
But on this day I was puttering in the garden. I saw a young lady in her early 20’s approach the library, and there was really nowhere to hide unless I were to dive headlong into the shrubbery. Even I know that would be weird.
So I said hello, and asked her if there were any types of books she particularly enjoyed. I mentioned that my garage is stuffed with them, so I’m sure I could find her something. And her eyes lit up. “Wow! Really?”
I smiled and said sure. I’d be happy to run up and bring some more down. Did she have a favorite author? Was she interested in anything specific?
She hesitated. I could tell she was thinking. Then she looked up at me and said, “I have dyslexia. So, like… teen… ch-chapter books?”
Yay! I have tons of those! So I told her I’d be right back, and I practically skipped up the sidewalk. I came back with 20 for her to choose from, and encouraged her to take as many or as few as she wanted. She smiled and took three.
That. That right there! That’s exactly why I have a little free library. The look on her face. That makes it all worth it.
Yes, books are starting to devour my garage. Yes, sometimes people will steal every book from this community resource to resell them online, taking them out of the hands of those who need them most. Yes, vandalism sometimes happens. But when all is said and done, the positives outweigh the negatives to an astounding degree.
I told my new patron that I’d do my best to always have a few books in there that she might like. She grinned and thanked me. I watched her walk down the sidewalk, and then I got back to my puttering. I could not wipe the smile off my face.
And contrary to a persistent myth, public libraries are big supporters of little free libraries. One of their primary goals is to get people to read. They don’t care how it happens. They want books to be available to everyone. I’ve never met a librarian who didn’t love little free libraries. We’re not competitors. We’re on the same team.
I will definitely put chapter books in my library for that lovely young lady, and for anyone else who wants to read them. It’ll be a challenge, though, finding chapter books that are at her level of maturity, but also at that reading level. But challenge accepted. I’ll find a way.
I also keep “lady books” in there for the woman who is too embarrassed to say “romance”. And I put thrillers in for the new citizen who reads them to practice his English. And I try to stock up on fairy tales for the man who likes to read to his grandchildren. And I could never forget the little boy who loves dinosaurs.
I’m thrilled with the idea of giving people easy access to the magical world of books. After all, books can take you anywhere in the universe. Anticipating the adventure that I’m about to embark upon when I start a new (to me) book gives me butterflies. Books helped me survive my childhood. In these stressful and confusing times, it’s an honor to share that feeling of comfort mixed with excitement with others.
A side benefit is the knowledge that children who read are much more likely to become successful adults. I think of my little free library as an investment in the future of both my community and the world at large. And that, right there, gives me quite a lot to smile about.
Incidentally, I have plenty of adult and young adult books, but I struggle to keep up with the children’s books. If you’d like to let a child in my neighborhood find his or her way into the world of books, please check out my Clark Lake Park Little Free Library Wish List on Amazon.com. No pressure, but if you are so inclined, I sincerely thank you.