So many books, so little time

by Wolf Pascoe on August 31, 2014

Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. — Anne Herbert

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Passing by, you might have seen them in the neighborhood. On the front lawn, little houses made of wood: glassy door, bookshelf inside.

Something about miniatures there is, drawing you in. Must be the fairy folk who build them.

The Little Free Library movement is barely five years old, and already there are thousands in fifty states and forty countries. Now there’s one in our front yard. Feel free to drop by and browse. Take a book, leave a book. No hurry.

Never for sale, always for free.

I’m smitten with Little Free Libraries because they’re beautiful.
Because they’re whimsical and free.
Because they provoke delight and gratitude.
Because they encourage sharing and community.
Literacy schmiteracy. I suppose there’s that too.

They make books cool.

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DO IT YOURSELF

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You don’t have to build the library yourself, though many do. But a carpenter I am not. I ordered one from the Little Free Library people. The problem was mounting it. I asked my friend David, who built Nick’s treehouse, if he could help.

“What’s a Little Free Library?” he said.

While a few neighbors watched, we sank a 4×4 into a two-foot hole in the front yard. Ever dig a two-foot hole and compact the dirt back in? You should try it.

The Talmud obliges a person to do three things: raise a child, write a book, and put up a Little Free Library. Actually, the third thing is plant a tree, but it’s the same.

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NO TIME

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Nora and I selected some books from our over-stuffed shelves to set up shop. Next morning I couldn’t wait to see what had moved.

Nothing.

No business all that first day. No business the second day. Who has time for books? I thought.

The third morning, My Antonia was gone. So was the volume of Proust. War and Peace stood in its place. There was a note:

Dear L.F.L.,
I have borrowed My Antonia and will return it next time. You have thrilled me to the core.
xox,
D. G.

From this, I deduce a thing or two. Libraries, even little ones, run in real time. And real time is slow.

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SUPPLY AND DEMAND

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Alack, the author! The webby world being what it is, one might say there is an oversupply of words. The market for those words–the people who actually read–comprises, in the parlance, a relatively small base of demand. Into this vacuum rushes a witches brew of marketing remedy–social media, advert, search engines and what-not.

From this, I am not the only writer who gets indigestion.

Write your books with the idea that no one will ever read them. — Hugh Howey

Let the beauty we live be what we do, says Rumi. Make time real, says I. Let us market our books the same way we write them, as we want to live every day. Let us become librarians.

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LIBRARIANS

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In my fantasy, we are a family of Little Free Librarians–Nick inventorying the library every day, finding new books to read, and scouting replacements. Reality is otherwise.

“Want to help install the library?” I had said to him.

“Why would I do that?” he said.

Nick had his twelfth birthday a while back and has decided to launch his teen age career, which does not include being a librarian. He did help me circulate flyers inviting the neighbors to celebrate the library opening, though.

A dozen people showed up for lemonade and cookies on the front lawn, and conversation about books. Nick was off with friends, but it was lovely anyway. Some neighbors–who knew?–were writers, living just doors away!

That night when Nick got home, we went to look at the library.

“Dad,” he said, “Some books are gone!”

We carried a few volumes out to replenish the shelf.

“You should put your book out,” he said.

Breathing for Two?” I said.

“Duh.”

I thought about it a while, then set out a copy. In the morning it was gone.

I’m going to do that again.

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RELATED POST:

I cross posted a shortened version of this piece on Wolfspeak, the blog on my writer site, Wolf Pascoe Word Shop. The content seemed appropriate to both places. Apologies for the redundancy if you’re subscribed there as well as here.

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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

Bookcrossing — another way to share books

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EXPRESS YOURSELF!

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Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin August 31, 2014 at 9:16 pm

We have one too!!! An amazing and wonderful birthday gift from my generous and ambitious husband and children. It has arrived, been assembled, and painted to match our (relatively recently repainted) house. And now it sits in our backyard, stuffed with books even, awaiting proper installation in our frontyard. My husband, an architect, will not abide simply digging a hole. His installation plan sounds complicated and involved. An auger must be rented. Cement must be poured. Although ’til now I have been excluded, per the terms of my birthday gift certificate, from the work of assembling and painting, I have been informed that I must participate in the installation. I am quaking in my boots . . . er, sandals. But I, too, have plans involving flyers, cookies and lemonade! And I do believe I need to purchase another copy of your book! 😉

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Wolf Pascoe August 31, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Small world! 🙂

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Barbara September 1, 2014 at 7:07 pm

I have never heard of these! I love knowing they are out there in the world. I suppose I could post one in front of my house, but since we might have one car pass our house on a good day, and no one walking by at all, alas, the inventory would never change. Hey, did you say you have a paper copy of your book? Why didn’t I get that to begin with??
Barbara recently posted..This time last year…

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Wolf Pascoe September 1, 2014 at 9:56 pm

I say go for the audiobook. And let me know if you see any LFLs in Austin!

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D. A. Wolf September 2, 2014 at 4:58 pm

How have I missed this phenomenon? This is fantastic.

(And I’ve been away from this oasis of beauty too long, Wolf to Wolf.)
D. A. Wolf recently posted..Saving Scenes of Childhood: Storytelling on Film

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Wolf Pascoe September 2, 2014 at 5:26 pm

The oasis has been playing hooky of late, but it’s nice to see you, Wolf.

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Privilege of Parenting September 2, 2014 at 7:18 pm

We have three of these little gems within the circumnabulation of our little local walks and I’m glad to know you are staking literary anchor, or planting a flag/tree in celebration of books, and words, and connecting through the worlds books invite us to travel in search of each other.

Maybe these little libraries are like portals and the books may start to travel on their own between them, and then between other times. Who knows, a Delorean just might pull up bearing books from the future.

I was relieved to realize that although I’ve not yet built a LFL I have fulfilled my obligations otherwise and thus I’m perfectly poised to read 🙂

And free from the anxiety of the due date, what could be more liberating than such offerings from our neighbors in this world which is but Our Town?

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Wolf Pascoe September 3, 2014 at 8:34 pm
Jane September 5, 2014 at 6:22 am

Oh, I love the LFL idea and hope it spreads worldwide! Plant a tree, lend a book…how great is that. I’ve already sent the link for your blog on to numerous friends that I think will be inspired by your inspired endeavor! We have a basket of books in our living room for perpetual recycle with friends — hope this counts as a variation on LFL!

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Wolf Pascoe September 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I love the Little Free Living Room idea!

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