Little Free Libraries: Why They Are a Great Idea

The look on her face made it all worthwhile.

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 No pressure, but if you are so inclined, I sincerely thank you.


Make Your World More Beautiful

We can move in a positive direction.

Nature is beautiful. And then we humans come along and build over the top of it, bringing pollution and urban sprawl and extinctions and overcrowding and cigarette butts.

But we do have a tiny bit of control. Artists understand that. We can create beauty if we want to. We don’t have to have boring, flat, monochrome surfaces that draw nothing but dust and debris and despair. We can make the spaces we occupy more interesting, inspiring strong emotions and deep thought that, on the best of days, will cause us to move in positive directions. Even those of us with no artistic training can bring beauty back.

We may not be able to recreate the Grand Canyon, but we can positively impact our surroundings if we choose to, even after much damage has been done. We don’t have to be a purely destructive force. We can clean things up and make them unique. The ambience surrounding you impacts your attitude, and shows your respect, or lack thereof, for your community and the wider world.

What are you doing to make your world more beautiful? We can all make a difference. We don’t have to be passive victims of our ever-expanding urban blight.

I’ll leave you with photos of some murals that beautify various places throughout the world. Individually, they may only cause a minor impact, but collectively they demonstrate that there’s hope for us yet.

Murals are not the only way to beautify your world. Use your imagination. Make something more beautiful today.

Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!

Black Coffee Northwest

A unique business with a survival instinct.

When I first moved to the state of Washington, I rented a house in Shoreline, just north of the Seattle city limits. I always thought of it as a quiet little town. I had excellent neighbors, and for the most part my memories of that time are pretty bucolic. The only reason I left the area was that I wanted to become a homeowner, and try as I might, I couldn’t afford anything nearby.

I was thrilled when I heard about a new business in that area called Black Coffee Northwest. Not because of the coffee. I don’t even drink coffee. And heaven knows you can’t sling a dead cat anywhere in the Pacific Northwest without hitting a coffee shop. So they weren’t exactly filling a product vacuum.

No. The reason I was intrigued by this business is that it serves a social purpose as well, and I always love when a business does that. This is a Black-owned business that provides work experience for Black youth in Shoreline. They sell Black-owned products. They have a lot of community meet ups including a youth outreach program. The are also the home of the Northside Step Team, Drill Team, and Drum Line. They support the Black Lives Matter movement. The drinks on their menu are also named to celebrate Black culture. What’s not to love?

I am all for supporting this business, but apparently not everyone is. In fact, this business has unintentionally exposed a really ugly, hateful side of Shoreline to the light of day. This article is a month old, but it talks about how this business has been vandalized three times. One time, Molotov cocktails were thrown at the building in an attempt to burn it down. Another time, racist images were drawn on the walls. The third time, someone smashed one of the glass doors.

I will never understand people who are so full of hate that they’re threatened by a coffee shop that is only trying to be a good and proactive member of the community. It takes a sick and twisted individual to be that evil. I hope they’re caught and that they’re thrown under the jail.

Not only is Black Coffee Northwest committed to sticking it out, but they are even planning to open a second location. I admire their courage. Courage shouldn’t be required, but they sure do have it.

If you’re ever in the Shoreline, Washington area, please visit Black Coffee Northwest and support them with your custom. As a matter of fact, they have several products that you can buy online here, so I hope you will do so. The best way to fight back against these vandals is to ensure that this business not only survives, but thrives.

Enjoying my view? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

What NOT to Put in a Little Free Library

You’d be surprised.

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!

The First “Un-iversary” of My Little Free Library

Longing for better, healthier days.

On July 24, 2019, with the help of my husband, I fulfilled a dream that I had had for many years. I was able to place a little free library in front of my house. It was an exciting moment, because books mean a great deal to me, and literacy means even more. By providing this service, I felt as though I was doing something very significant for my community.

For the uninitiated, little free libraries are boxes placed in communities and filled with books. You take a book, but you don’t necessarily have to return it (which is often the case in my library). You can also donate books for others to enjoy.

These libraries are great for those who don’t have the time or ability to go to a public library. They’re particularly effective in areas of high foot traffic. In my neighborhood, they seem to be used most by parents who are taking their children for a walk. It’s hard to keep children’s books in my library. And that gratifies me a great deal, because children who read become adults who read, and adults who read are more intelligent, and develop the critical thinking skills that are necessary to have a positive impact on society at large.

I don’t think I quite realized how much fun I would have in this endeavor. We have no neighbors right next door. It’s not a pop-in-and-borrow-a-cup-of-sugar kind of community. So I wasn’t expecting this magical little box to do so much to make me feel connected to the people in my area.

Now, when people see me watering the plants in the front yard, they say hello. If they are walking down the street and they see me pulling out of my driveway, they point at the library and shout a thank you. I have a log book in my library, and they leave the most gratifying notes. They talk about how much they enjoyed this or that book. They ask for books of a certain genre, and I do my best for them. They tell me about the books they’ve donated. They thank me for being an easy source of reading material for people who don’t have cars and can’t easily get to the public library. All these things bring tears to my eyes.

Unfortunately, due to this pandemic, I felt it was necessary to temporarily shut down my library. I didn’t want to. I really struggled with the concept. But in the end, I knew that doing the responsible thing takes precedence over doing what feels good.

This, for me, has been the hardest part of this pandemic. And I’ve been told by more than one passerby that it has been hard for them, too. In fact, they have begged me to reopen.

So we’ve decided to do so on a trial basis, with certain precautions. We have added a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a sign asking patrons to use it before touching anything. We’ve also removed the logbook, pens, rubber duckies, and bookmark giveaways. This breaks our hearts, but safety first.

I worry about the health of everyone in the neighborhood, but as tensions and boredom and temperatures are rising, and morale is at an all time low, I feel as though our little library is needed now more than ever. I hope that all of us have learned enough about safe behavior during this pandemic to treat the library safely and responsibly.

So there you have it. Today was supposed to be an anniversary celebration. I was thinking balloons and bookmark giveaways and cookies and a table with an even wider selection of titles. Instead, it has turned into an un-iversary, because we were closed for about 1/4th of the year, and we really can’t have a big fete.

All of this has me longing for better, healthier days. But it reminds me that it really is possible to make a difference. And that, in these chaotic, unpredictable times, is something to hold onto.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Edible Bus Stops!

Why didn’t we think of this before?

I stumbled upon the edible bus stop concept completely by accident. It’s brilliant. I love everything about it. Any idea that makes you say, “Why didn’t we think of this before?” is well worth implementing.

Urban gardens are increasingly popular, but they have one little drawback. Most urban settings are already developed and it is therefore very difficult to find land where these gardens can be established. But another common feature of most urban landscapes is the bus stop.

Bus stops are often ugly, dirty, neglected places where people are embarrassed to be seen. People never look happy while waiting at the bus stop. They want to be elsewhere. So what can we do to make these places a little more pleasant, and at the same time enhance the community?

They’re doing it in London. They’re turning bus stops into pocket gardens, run by volunteers. There are so many pluses to this concept that I can only mention a few here:

  • They beautify the bus stop.

  • They teach people about gardening and the importance of local, seasonal food.

  • They increase community pride.

  • The food they produce is freely available to anyone who needs or wants it.

  • The more greenery there is in our urban spaces, the healthier our environment becomes.

  • Each stop is uniquely designed to fit in with the neighborhood, and the community is engaged in the decision making process.

  • The gardens are all inclusive and make the neighborhood feel safer.

  • Entire edible bus routes create green corridors in a city and they connect communities.

  • Bees and birds love edible bus stops!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this idea caught on around the world, one bus stop at a time? Spread the word! Suggest it to your city councils. Let’s go!

Edible Bus Stops!

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

Yet Another Way to Share

Sharing builds community.

I’ve written with great pride about the Little Free Library in front of our house. I’ve also written about Chat Benches and Little Free Galleries and Little Free Gardens and even Bug Houses. Another friend recently sent me this little article about another wonderful idea: Stick Libraries for Dogs.

It seems that this gentleman’s dog loves sticks, and there were none in the dog park in New Zealand that they frequent. So, being handy, he built a box and filled it with smooth-edged sticks for the dogs who visit to use and return. What a delightful gesture. A lending library for dogs.

All these ideas have a recurring theme: Sharing. Sharing builds community. Sharing gives people a stronger sense of place. Sharing promotes generosity.

In a world that seems increasingly polarized, the guy who built this box seems to be saying, “I’m not worried about your politics or your religion or your race or your social standing. I just want to make your dog smile.”

I’m sitting here on the other side of the world, and the concept is making me smile, too. I hope it catches on. The dogs of the world would thank us.

Stick Library

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude! Read my book!


Little Free Gardens!

What a brilliant concept!

Recently I started a Little Free Library, and it’s been so popular that I can barely keep up with it. I’ve also blogged about Chat Benches, which is another community-building idea whose time definitely has come. From here, a friend told me about another fantastic idea: Little Free Gardens.

According to the website, “The goal of the Little Free Garden project is to foster communities committed to growing, sharing and cultivating food in small gardens, placed in residential or public spaces.”

What a brilliant concept. And it’s simple, really. 1) Build a box, perhaps 4 feet by 2 feet and 12 inches deep. 2) Plant vegetables or fruit therein. 3) Place it in your front yard or in an approved public space, so that the produce can be shared by anyone who wants or needs it.

Not only are you helping to feed others, but you are educating them about the value of fresh, high quality, local food, and encouraging gardening. It’s also a great way to meet your neighbors and build community connections.

What’s not to love about this idea? If you don’t have the time or space to plant a little free garden, please consider hopping over to their website and supporting this organization in its good works.


Read any good books lately? Try mine!


Chat Benches with a Positive Spin

Combining Chat Benches with Little Free Libraries!

I’m 54 years old, and for 52 of those years, I was desperately lonely more often than not. So I’d like to think I can speak with good authority on this subject. There’s a certain stigma attached to loneliness. Being in that state makes you feel as if you’re a failure at life, because everyone who sees you as lonely tends to pity you or assume that you are, indeed, a failure at life. (And in case you’re wondering, the odds are quite high that you are NOT a failure. Please know that.)

Seclusion is a catch 22 situation. Often, to break out of it, you must first admit that you’re there, and admitting that you’re there could brand you as some substandard, clingy, desperate outlier, and that causes people to avoid you. Confessing to loneliness also makes you vulnerable, and opens you up to rejection.

So I was really intrigued when a friend shared an article with me about Chat Benches. I started looking into them, and I must say that I was delighted by the intent behind them, but not quite as thrilled by the media spin.

Chat benches seem to have originated in England, and the idea is quite simple. Put a sign on a bench that says, “The ‘Happy to Chat’ Bench: Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello.” Brilliant.

I think of the many thousands of times that I’ve shared a bench with strangers and was too afraid to pass the time of day with them, for fear of making them uncomfortable. A bench with this type of sign would remove that hurdle, and make the moment pass by more pleasantly. And who knows? I might have made a new friend.

As we become more isolated, as we all bury our noses in our smart phones, we might need a little extra push to take that step into the land of social interaction. These benches provide just that sort of push. I applaud them.

I’ve read several articles on the subject now, and it seems that they launched this movement to coincide with United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. All well and good. The elderly quite often disproportionately suffer from loneliness and depression. The articles go on to describe how loneliness in that generation makes one susceptible to abuse and suicide. Also a legitimate concern.

Here’s where it gets sticky, though. As a friend says, “I think it’s a mistake, and unhelpful, to frame this as a ‘help lonely people by speaking to them’ story. Asking people to self-identify in public as ‘lonely’ is to ask them to publicly admit to social stigma, and asking the supposedly not lonely to provide public and demeaning charity by deigning to talk to the self-identified ‘lonely’ is to further that stigma. We could all benefit from talking more with each other in safe, casual public situations, stigma- and charity-free.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think these benches are a great idea. But I also think the media spin, and the public conversation, needs to shift. We’re all lonely at one time or another. We could all use new friends. We should all talk more, and listen more. I think everything that gets the community to interact with each other is worthwhile, and if part of that community just happens to be elderly, then so much the better.

What I hate is the idea that whoever sits on that bench first is projecting this “I’m lonely, please help me” image, and whoever sits there second is doing them a great favor. Based on the wording of the sign, that was not the intent of the creators of this movement. Good on them! But the articles I’ve read on the subject would have you believe otherwise, and that’s a great shame.

Hey, I just had a great idea! Perhaps every chat bench could be placed next to a Little Free Library. That way, the person who sits on this bench alone would have something to do until the next person comes along. The sign would make it obvious that person one isn’t so absorbed in the book that he or she isn’t willing to talk. And talking about books is a great ice breaker. Hmmm.

I envision a day when there’s a Chat Bench website, where you can register your bench and have it put on a map to indicate where the nearest bench can be found, just like does with its libraries. Incidentally, if you go to that website, you can see a bench design that includes little free library books in its base. (A bit pricey, but probably not that hard to imitate.) These two organizations could so easily go hand in hand. An idea whose time has come.

Meanwhile, if you do decide to put up a chat bench (and I hope you will), please make sure it’s in a high traffic area, so that the first person sitting there can avoid that wallflower feeling.

Bench Chat

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Incredible Kindness

Okay. Hoo. I’ve got something in my eye.

Okay. Hoo. I’ve got something in my eye. Sniffle.

One of the most unexpected perks about getting married is that I’ve acquired a whole lot of new amazing family members. One of my favorites, Jenna, recently posted something on her Facebook page that moved me so much that I had to share it with all of you.

“Took the kiddos to a busy park today and watched a mom lose her temper at her kiddo…in a loud yelling, arm yanking kind of way. Another mom walked up to her, put her hand in hers and said, “Hey, we’ve all been here.” Then the super young mama went from red-faced anger to tears. They hugged, and then another mom joined, and another, then a dad joined them, and another, then there were like 10 parents, in a group hug around her. I cried from the sidelines trying to keep a close eye on my little ones, but It was astonishing to see the diversity of parents show their compassion, rather than judgement. We need to rally around our vulnerable parents. Lift them up, and give them strength. This kid raisin’ business is hard. #bekind #ilovemycommunity #tucsonkindness

I’m not one to fill my blog with Facebookishness, but this really hit me in the heart place. In a time when we’re all feeling so polarized and divided and downright depressed, this kind of behavior gives me hope. It is still possible to love thy neighbor. We can support each other. Si se puede. We can be a force for good.

Just sit with that for a while. Let it sink in. Let it be your thought for the day. Namaste.

Group Hug

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!