The Little Free Library

IMG_2760My husband spotted the Little Free Library as we were driving home.

It’s on our street.

‘Oh my God!”

I made him stop the car.

I raced out to look at the books.

The Little Free Library looks like a birdhouse on a stick.  Some are fancier than others:  I’ve seen a two-story LFL that looks like a tiny house.  Open the glass door of the shelf and you can browse, borrow, or take a book, and then return it or donate more.  I have given books to another Little Free Library in my neighborhood.  I can’t say my books go like a house a-fire:  the copy of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow is still there, but Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower has been checked out twice.

In 2009 Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin, built the first Little Free Library:  a bookshelf that was designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse, with a sign that said “Free Book Exchange.”

It caught on.

People told him they wanted to build their own and wanted to share their books.

Today there are 12,000 Little Free Libraries not just in the U.S. but in Ukraine, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Brazil.  And the three I’ve seen in town don’t appear on the map, so apparently aren’t registered. At Bol’s website, Little Free Library, you can buy kits.  Or you can build your own.

Is our neighborhood hip?  Is that why we have one?  Not necessarily.  But this is a nice aspect of community.

People long to be connected, according to the Slow Movement.  And not necessarily by internet.   Well, I can’t say I’ve met anyone at a Little Free Library.  I’m always the only one there!  But it is a lovely  idea. It would make a very nice feature story to bang on the door and interview the owners about why they’ve started this.

There are readers in our neighborhood:  I know because every book from Amazon is automatically delivered to me.  Twice I’ve ripped them open, not noticing the address label is wrong.  Then I saunter off with an apology to the person who ordered the book. (Once Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and another time a self-help book.)

IMG_2763The selection at the new LFL is not bad: Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs, Amy Tan’s Saving Fish from Drowning, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, and then the usual Mary Higgins Clark.

I borrowed Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Travelers.  Actually, I have a copy , but I wanted to borrow something.  She is one of my favorite writers, and, alas, she died earlier this year.

“That looks like someone dropped it in the toilet,” my husband said.

“It’s just a couple of crinkled pages,” I said indignantly.  “The rest are fine.”

But it did put me off a bit.  I think I’ll just find my old copy of Travelers and read that instead…

8 thoughts on “The Little Free Library

  1. I’m happy to learn you are an admirer of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. I have read most of her books but may not have them sorted out properly in my head. I know I liked Heat and Dust and the one about the young arrange-married couple, I think The Householder.

    She was not Indian herself, yet married into a Indian family and lived there as a family member. I think it gave her a perspective on the culture in which she was both an insider and an outsider. I did not know she had died.


  2. Oh, I love her work so much! There are some I’ve missed: I did read her last story collection last year, but there are a few I have meant to get to. I did like Heat and Dust very much.


  3. What a lovely idea these Free Libraries are – alas, we have nothing like that over here. Though I *do* know what your husband means – despite my love of old books, there are some that you look at and you think – no, that’s just *too* bedraggled to risk picking up!


  4. You can order your own Little Free Library kit if the urge takes you.:) Since it takes me 12 hours to change a bicycle tire, that wouldn’t work well for me.

    Yes, some books are just in very bad shape!


  5. I am a big fan of the LFL! We have about a dozen in our neighbourhood thanks to a community initiative and I’ve been finding some gems. I’ve decided to start a series on my blog featuring the books I read from LFLs. I plan to build one this summer when I’ll have the help of my talented father-in-law. I love checking out the images online of all the creative designs.


  6. Lee-Anne, I will definitely read your blog about the LFL books. That’s a great idea! I’m very pleased to have an LFL on my street and it will be fun for you to have your own!


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