Harriet gave me the idea to sponsor a Little Free Library. She seems to know when I need a project to focus on, and this one fit me well: I’m an author, an avid reader, and we have many full bookshelves in our house—books as furniture, we call that.
I have just enough skill and an assortment of tools to believe I could design and build my own library rather than assemble one from a kit purchased from the Little Free Library organization.
The Building Phase
When I take on a project like this, I have a thing about using only materials I already have around the house. This inevitably leads to many unusual design decisions and some unexpected results.
I had an old wooden bin that I cut up for the sides. Extra roofing shingles and ice shield stored in my garage loft. Trim pieces leftover from a kitchen project. A spare fence post. A picture frame that became the library door. Paint cans with an inch left in the bottom.
I started out with a sketch of what my library might look like, but I couldn’t plan the entire structure. For me, the building process is a lot like writing a novel: the end result is different from the original vision, because the vision didn’t extend far enough, and things change along the way.
What I ended up with is the equivalent of a fortress mounted on a post. It’s about the size of a small doghouse (cathouse in our case; we’re a family with cats). I might continue to decorate the library now that it’s operational, but mostly I want to offer books.
The Collection of Books
For the initial collection, I chose a mix of popular books, literary novels, and children’s/YA. I’ve also included my two novels, STASH and CLEAN BREAK. They disappeared in the first week, never to return. But that’s fair. The motto of Little Free Library, and inscribed on my official plaque, is “Take a book, return a book.” You don’t have to return the same book you borrowed.
Not everyone heeds the simple instruction. I’ve had people dump unwanted boxes of books on me. I can’t tell you how many copies of James Patterson books I’ve had to recycle, or of the Twilight series. Someone was once kind enough to donate their collection of bodice rippers. Are they still called bodice rippers? Is that allowed?
Life as a Library Curator
At first, I planned to keep a comprehensive inventory of what books were borrowed, returned, or contributed from my own collection. That strategy lasted about three days. I quickly realized I didn’t need the complication or stress of curating the collection.
Sure, I have to cull the books I’d rather not be in there (see above: Patterson, bodice rippers, etc.) because they don’t represent the brand of lending library I want to sponsor. I’m allowed to do that–it’s my library.
But for the most part, I let the library run on its own. When there are too many books, I weed. When there aren’t enough, I scour my own shelves for books I can contribute. It seems I’m always looking for good children’s books. I don’t have so many, now that my children are grown. And I often see neighborhood kids peeking inside to see what’s new (how satisfying for me).
24 x 7 x 365
My library is open all day and all night, every day of the year. Rain or shine or snow. It’s been over four years now.
I shovel a path as necessary in winter; I cut the surrounding lawn in summer. And always, always, I love to see people visiting my library.
Keep reading, everyone. It’s good for you.