A while back, I built a Little Free Lending Library

A while back, I built a Little Free Lending Library. You know the kind: a boxy receptacle with shelves, a pitched roof, and small swinging glass door housing used books on various subjects. The idea was to offer free books to the neighborhood.

Take a book, leave a book.
That was the intention.

When I completed my Little Library, I stocked it with books that I was no longer interested in keeping. These included some biographies, thrillers, mysteries, novels, histories, and a few poetry books.

It was fun to watch people stop by and exchange their books, or maybe just take one or just drop one off. Over time, the number of books in the library fluctuated but never overflowed or emptied. In fact, most days the two shelves averaged about three-quarters full. However, it was plain that after a couple of months the titles remaining coalesced into mostly cookbooks, self-help books, obsolete textbooks, and unwanted magazines. Gone were the popular novels, biographies, etc. At this point, fewer people came by to “check out” any editions.
I liked the idea of a neighborhood library, but I didn’t want it to become a de facto literary desert destined for the recycling bin. After all, how many self-help books does one need? Do you really need a lot of cookbooks when there are millions of recipes on the Internet? Do people want to study their old college books?

The solution? Restock the library with fresh, low-cost material. Over the years, we’ve donated many books to the local nonprofit “Grey Bears,” which assists seniors. Jennie suggested I buy some books there. Such a deal! For $10, they said I could fill a brown paper grocery bag with whatever I wanted—and there must have been a few thousand titles to choose from—everything from classics to children’s books.

I crammed about thirty books in my bag (thirty-three cents each) and walked out a happy man. My finds included such well-known works as Dubliners by James Joyce, Utopia by Thomas More, My Antonia by Willa Cather, and Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana.

A while back, I built a Little Free Lending Library

I immediately read Two Years Before the Mast and found it the definitive book on sailing clipper ships around Cape Horn, as well as a great narrative on life in Coastal California in the 1830s when the cattlehide business was at its zenith and Mexico (not Spain) ruled the land.
So my Little Free Lending Library is well stocked now, and I await the throngs of readers that will come to my driveway in search of the one book that perhaps will enthuse them and add a little happiness to their day. Maybe I’ll put a used copy of Five Hundred Moons in there and see how long it lasts!

Photos by Buzz Anderson

Follow Buzz!