Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. — Anne Herbert
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.
DO IT YOURSELF
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.
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.
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:
I have borrowed My Antonia and will return it next time. You have thrilled me to the core.
From this, I deduce a thing or two. Libraries, even little ones, run in real time. And real time is slow.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
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.
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.
I thought about it a while, then set out a copy. In the morning it was gone.
I’m going to do that again.
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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