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

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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Bite-Sized Goals

This strange year has taught me much about the goals that I set, and how I achieve them, and how I handle disappointment.

After I put a little free library in front of my house in the summer of 2019, my goal was rather vague but nevertheless sincere: I wanted to promote literacy in my community, especially among children. Nothing sets you up for success in life as much as becoming an avid reader from an early age. And I also wanted to pass on my love of reading to younger generations.

With that in mind, I cast about for ideas on how to draw people to my little free library. I started a Facebook group for it. I talked about it on our community page and on Nextdoor.com. I tried to set up a geocache, but there’s one nearby that refuses to move, so my geocache isn’t allowed. Drat.

Most of all, though, I wanted to make it a pokestop on the Pokemon Go application. Children love the game, and they’re drawn to pokestops within the game. I downloaded the app in August, 2019 in hopes of suggesting my library as a stop, and discovered that you can’t nominate stops until you’ve reached the highest level in the game, level 40. So my goal switched from nominating a stop to reaching level 40 so I could nominate a stop.

Every time I would advance a level in that game, I would get so excited. I was one level closer to achieving my goal! Yay, me!

But then, one day when I was around level 25, I opened the game up to discover that someone else had nominated my little free library as a pokestop! And just like that, I was cast adrift, doomed to wander the planet devoid of a goal. Woe is me.

That’s when I realized that having the goal was the thing. And having someone else achieve it for me was not nearly as satisfying. Time to set a new goal.

But who was I kidding? By then I was hooked on Pokemon Go, so I altered my goal to help feed my addiction. I decided I would still get to level 40, and make other little free libraries pokestops. Oh, and make my drawbridge a pokestop, so I could play at work. Yeah. Because with a pokestop right outside my front door, I now knew the luxury of playing at home. I may as well have that at work, too.

I had been obsessed about reaching level 40 for just over a year. Then one day, while at level 39, I found out that the good folks at Pokemon Go had decided to lower the level at which you could nominate pokestops to level 38. Woo hoo! I had arrived!

But I also kind of felt like I had been punked, or at the very least, someone had handed me a cheat sheet. Again, not nearly as satisfying. But did I start nominating stops? Heck yeah!

Now I’m waiting to see if my nominations will get implemented. New goal. They say it could take anywhere from a few days to several months. Every day, I eagerly open the app to see if they’re there. So far, nothing.

What to do while waiting? I still wanted to reach that highest level. Just to say I did. I soon realized that “just because” goals are never as much fun as regular goals.

And then, just the other day, I reached level 40. I was alone. The game does not provide you with the level of fanfare that one might expect after racking up, I kid you not, twenty freakin’ million points, but there you have it. Goal achieved.

And that same day, I learned that they’re raising the top level to 50.

I’m not sure how to feel. I’m not sure what I want to do. Now I know that I don’t thrive when deprived of closure.

But I’m going to apply my learning somehow, some way. For example, I know now that I am most happy when I’m working toward a goal. I’ve learned I need to break my goals into bite sized pieces, because gigantic goals, once achieved, can be a massive let down. I’ve learned that the goal posts can move, and that’s okay, but I’d much rather that they stay put. Short term goals are much more apt to stay put. But most of all, I learned that when I find myself adrift, I can always pick myself up and create a goal to get me heading in the right direction once again. And that’s all the closure one can expect out of life.

Who knew one could achieve so much personal growth from a computer game?

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! Now, there’s a goal for you! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Public Art from around the Globe

I love public art so much that I started a Public Art Lovers group on Facebook. I invite you to join! It’s fun seeing murals and statues and fountains and the like from far flung places that I’ll most likely never get a chance to visit.

I’m lucky I have a tolerant husband. Often we’ll be driving around, and I’ll shout, “Public art! Get a picture!” And he’s usually willing to do so, as long as it won’t risk life and limb.

I genuinely believe that public art raises a civilization to the next level. A life well lived should be much more than simply a desperate search for food, shelter, and clothing. Art is self-expression, and a sign that the mind has the time and luxury to be creative. Art also makes you think. It expands your mind. Art also adds beauty to the world, and we could all use a little more of that.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the gaming app Pokemon Go is that you can make friends all around the world and receive digital postcards from them. Aside from the ubiquitous pictures of playgrounds and places of worship, you are also treated to a great deal of public art. So without further ado, here are some of the cool digital postcards I’ve received or sent of late. My apologies that I can’t tell you the locations of most of these works of art, but I hope, like me, you’ll delight in the fact that they exist somewhere in the world.

Do you enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Traveling Vicariously

I’ve had several trips cancelled now, in this new, scary COVID-19 world in which we live. And travel is my reason for being. I love to go places where I’ve never been and see things that I’ve never seen. So, yeah, I’m getting a bit depressed. I’m feeling kind of claustrophobic. Which means, clearly, that I need to get creative.

I’m reading more about foreign lands. I’m watching more movies set in other countries. I’m thinking of clogging up my laptop with the Google Earth application again. I’m listening to songs sung in other languages. I’m looking at exotic recipes and wishing I could go out and get the needed ingredients. And then I’m wishing that I actually liked to cook.

I’m also playing Pokemon Go. Through that game, I’ve gone to this website and made friends from all over the world. We send each other digital postcards. It’s kind of fun, peeking into the lives of people I don’t know and will never meet. Every day I get these postcards from Spain and Norway and Mexico and Israel (to name just a few), and for a moment I feel like I’m there. There’s some fascinating art in the world.

Here are some of the postcards I’ve received that I found worthy of a screenshot. Sadly, I can’t tell you where most of these things are, because unfortunately the descriptors are less detailed than I’d like them to be. I just know that they’re anywhere but here. And that’s pretty darned cool, because at the moment, that’s someplace I can’t be.

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

All for Nothin’

I know someone who calls herself “Nothin’”. Actually, I only know her in passing. I wish I knew her better. I’d love to set her straight.

How do I know Nothin’? (Keep your smart aleck responses to that out of the comments section!) I’ve already confessed within the confines of this blog that I play Pokemon Go. Yeah, I know, it’s silly. But it’s also fun.

Many people are under the misapprehension that this is a game just for little kids, and that it’s about catching and killing monsters and fighting. First of all, no monsters are killed during the course of this game. No blood is shed. And while there are indeed battles, they’re more like jovial sports competitions. They barely raise your heart rate.

What I like most about the game, aside from collecting the unique monsters, is that you can make friends from all around the world, and exchange virtual postcards with them that you collect during your Pokemon travels. It’s fun to see pictures of graffiti in Spain or architecture in Indonesia or parks in Colombia. It’s fun to imagine what has brought these people to these places, and picture myself visiting these locations as well. I like to imagine what things people consider routine that I would find exotic.

When you play Pokemon Go, the first thing you do is get an avatar and choose a unique name. People can get very creative with these names. You also get to choose your gender and how your avatar dresses. But you don’t get to chat with other players.

Over time, though, you learn a little something about the person based on the superficial choices he or she makes. Nothin’ could be an adult or a child. She has chosen a female avatar, and she dresses that avatar very stylishly and conservatively. Her avatar is white, with blonde hair. She sends me postcards from Central Canada. She only plays maybe once or twice a week.

That’s all I know about her, other than the fact that of all the words she could have chosen to identify herself, she chose Nothin’. That breaks my heart. Man, I wish I could talk to her!

I hope she’s not severely depressed and crying out for help in such a way that none of us can ever respond. I hope she isn’t surrounded by people who are chipping away at her self-esteem. I hope she doesn’t feel inferior because she is female. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but the frustrating part is that I’ll never know what motivates Nothin’.

I wish I could write on the virtual postcards that I send to her. I would tell her that she is, in fact, something. I would tell her that I’m glad she exists. I would tell her that I like her style. I would tell her that I see her, and that she has value in this world. I would ask her to seek help and hold on.

Because nobody is nothin’.

you are awesome.

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When You Reach Your Goal

I am a very goal-oriented person. That’s part of the reason that I started working at age 10, and I’ve been to 22 countries. I prioritize savings for my objectives over instant gratification or fancy electronics or a nice car or the latest smart phone. I never started smoking, not only because it’s a disgusting, life-threatening habit, but also because I had other plans for my life and my money.

And there is nothing, nothing at all, like the high you get when you achieve a goal that you’ve shed blood, sweat, and tears for, over an unbelievably long period of time. It’s better than winning the lottery, because it’s your sacrifices that make it happen. It’s like standing on a mountaintop, enjoying the view, after having crawled up there inch by inch, month by month, all on your own. There is no more beautiful view than that. Excelsior!

Recently, I achieved a goal that I had all but given up hope on. My little free library was made into a pokestop on the Pokemon Go app. This might seem trivial to many of you, but after having achieved the goal of having that library, I then wanted to draw as many children to it as possible, to encourage reading and literacy. Pokemon Go is very popular with young people. To play the game, one goes to pokestops in the real world. If my library is one of those pokestops, more children will visit it.

Achieving this goal took many months and hundreds of hours of dedication. I figured I’d have to play the game to suggest the pokestop, so I put the app on my phone and started playing. Then I found a suggestion form on the Niantic website (the creators of Pokemon Go), and filled it out. They responded, politely, that you have to be at level 40 in the game to make a pokestop suggestion, and that they only choose a few countries at a time, and that at present the US wasn’t one of those countries. I was crushed.

But I figured that I could at least work up to level 40 in the game so that if the US gets chosen, I’d be ready. Well, I’m at level 32, and that took forever. And each level takes longer to achieve than the last.

Meanwhile I figured that my suggestion had been discarded. Well, recently there was a Pokemon Go upgrade, and I installed it, and blink! My pokestop was there! Just like that.

But after going back to the Niantic website, and reading the requirements for pokestop suggestions, it seems that I may have just gotten lucky. Some level 40 person must have made the suggestion for me. And in retrospect, the description attached to the pokestop is in different words than I’d have chosen.

But still, goal achieved. Woo hoo! I’ll take it!

But after that “Excelsior!” moment, I experienced a little bit of a letdown. I had been working toward this goal for so long. Now what?

Once a goal is reached, especially if it’s reached so unexpectedly, you kind of go through a period of mourning. Life will be different, now. You have to find another purpose. You have to let go. You have to move on. Change. It’s really disconcerting.

And then there’s the awkwardness of knowing that I’m now addicted to Pokemon Go, and I no longer have a “legitimate” reason to play, other than the fact that it’s fun.

That should be enough, right? But it was ever so much nicer to have a loftier purpose. Now I kind of feel like a creepy adult who refuses to grow up.

I’m sure I’ll get over it, though. At least until I focus on the next goal, whatever that turns out to be.I guarantee there will be one. For me, there always is.

Maybe I should continue to try for level 40, and then suggest that every little free library I come across as a pokestop. That would increase literacy, too. Hmmmm…

My Pokestop
My very own pokestop! Woo hoo!

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The Benefits of Playing Pokemon Go

I always thought the Pokemon franchise was for little kids. Cartoons. Trading cards. The stuff of childhood. If I’m honest, I never paid it very much attention.

Then I placed a little free library in front of my house. We get a lot of foot traffic, so a lot of books are coming and going, which is fantastic. But of course, the goal is to encourage as much reading as possible, so I was casting about to find ways to attract more people to the library, especially younger readers, and one suggestion was Pokemon Go.

For the uninitiated, as you go about your daily life, the Pokemon Go avatar that you create in the game is also walking through a parallel world. If you’re walking down a street, that same street exists there. The difference is that there are pokestops within Pokemon Go where you can receive gifts and gather points. These pokestops correspond to landmarks in the real world. Public art. Historical markers. Starbucks coffee shops. Churches. Playgrounds. And, yes, little free libraries.

Players of this game are drawn to these pokestops. I want them to be similarly drawn to my library. But, how do I make my library a pokestop? Obviously, I had to put the game app on my phone. I did so. But I couldn’t find any way to suggest a pokestop.

After a little bit of internet research, I discovered that you have to get to level 40 in the game to make such suggestions. Well, alrighty then. I guess I’ll play Pokemon Go. Just for the sake of my library, of course.

But who am I kidding? By the time I reached level 5, I was hooked. I enjoy encountering, capturing and collecting the “POKEt MONsters.” Each one is unique. I enjoy visiting the pokestops and learning about places I may have otherwise overlooked. I like being part of this secret, all but invisible world.

And by the time I got hooked, I discovered that Niantic, the Pokemon company, only allows a few countries at a time to suggest pokestops, and the US is not currently one of those. I also discovered that each level is harder to get past than the last, because you have to get an increasing number of points. At this rate it will take me years to reach level 40. I only hope that the people in the US can make pokestop suggestions by the time I reach that point.

The frustrating thing is that I’ve seen little free libraries that have pokestops. How did they get them? I don’t know. If there’s anyone out there who has the ability to create a pokestop, please, I’m begging you, contact me. I’ll give you all the information you need.

In the meantime, I play on. And I’ve discovered that this game has a lot going for it. If I had a child, I would be thrilled if Pokemon Go were a part of his or her life. Here are some of the benefits of playing this game:

-First of all, and foremost, as far as I am concerned, is that Pokemon Go encourages walking. That’s outstanding in this couch potato world we’ve created for ourselves. You need to get out there to visit those pokestops. Also, if you obtain an egg, which will eventually hatch into a pokemon, you have to walk a certain distance to “incubate” that egg. And the more places you go, the more pokemon you encounter. I have actually lost three pounds since I started playing this game, and that’s even more remarkable when you consider the fact that I took a week-long, food-ladened cruise during that period.

-Second, it broadens your horizons. Not only are you discovering interesting places that have been right under your nose this whole time, but you also “meet” people from places you’ve never been. You rapidly discover that the best way to succeed in the game is to have friends with which you can exchange “gifts”. You can obtain free gifts to give to friends at pokestops.

But how do you make these friends? If you’re an adult like me, it would be a little creepy to hit up random children for friend requests. (I’m also hesitant to spend too much time at playground pokestops. It just looks weird.) So instead, I put my Pokemon friend code out there on Facebook and got a few that way. But only a few.

But then I got smart. I googled “Pokemon Go Friend Codes” and discovered this website. From there, I’ve made friends from all over the world. Not a day goes by when I don’t receive “gifts” from these friends, and the gift includes a little postcard from the pokestop where they obtained this gift. As I wrote this, I got a postcard from a quirky little statue in a small town in Portugal. Now, how cool is that? And it’s perfectly safe to make these friends. You’ll never actually communicate with them. They’ll never know your real name or contact information. It’s just fun to get the occasional cyber-hello from another part of the planet. (Incidentally, if you play Pokemon Go, my friend code is 2823 6831 5660. Friend me!)

Pokemon Go teaches you a lot, as well:

  • You can’t win them all. You won’t catch every pokemon you go after. You won’t win every competition you engage in. And that’s okay.

  • You get further in life when you’re part of a team.

  • Organization is important. There is no point in keeping duplicate Pokemon. And there are benefits within the game for getting rid of the ones you don’t need.

  • Diversity is great! The wider the variety of Pokemon you have, the more fun the game becomes.

  • It’s important to plan ahead. Some Pokemon will evolve into cooler, stronger, more beautiful Pokemon, but it takes a little effort and focus to reach that goal.

  • You begin to realize that a lot of people’s weird “migration patterns” are a result of Pokemon Go. Why do people park their cars in that deserted stretch of parking lot all the time? Because it’s a pokestop. That’s also why people often drive into that church parking lot but never enter the church. And it’s why you see parents with kids in the back seat driving slowly through intersections. Hidden world, revealed.

  • When in doubt, do some research. Unfortunately, a lot of the rules and tricks about this game are not spelled out for you. It can be a bit of a learning curve, and Niantic doesn’t explain things well, if at all. But there are a lot of forums on the internet that can tell you all you need to know.

  • Delayed gratification is tolerable. Sometimes you can’t achieve your goals or complete your tasks in this game until you’ve received a particular object or reached a particular level, and that’s okay. You’ll get there. Patience is a virtue.

Perhaps the one downside to this game is that if you do struggle with delayed gratification, there are plenty of opportunities to spend money to get to where you want to be. It’s possible to play this game without spending a dime. It just takes a lot longer. This is a temptation I wrestle with whenever I play.

Perhaps the weirdest aspect of this game is that some people protest that it encourages animal cruelty, because you capture these pokemon, and you can battle with them. But this is a far cry from dog fighting. There is no glorification of blood and guts in this game. And I think that any child who is mentally healthy can distinguish between a cartoon monster and the family pet. Give kids a little bit of credit. Sheesh.

To summarize: A) Please make my little free library a pokestop if you have the ability to do so. (And my bridge, and the statue just north of my bridge, if the spirit moves you.) B) Friend me if you play, and C) have fun while learning stuff.

Oh, and pay attention to your surroundings so as not to walk out into traffic and get yourself killed. Because that’s no fun at all. And I’d really feel horrible if you did.

Pokemon Go

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