Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The little free library that's always open

Take a book, return a book ...  a simple guiding premise.

I had just bought the November Monocle, the bookish and dense global briefing on international affairs and culture, from my favorite magazine shop, Issues, where they were holding a copy for me. As I walked back to retrieve my car that was parked less than 50 yards away, I came upon a small, colorful structure that resembled a miniature one-room school house.

A closer look revealed something totally unexpected to me. What I saw was a Little Free Library in front of the residence at 38 Glen Avenue, just off Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.

The noted Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar and writer Cicero once opined: "To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul."

Although I'm not sure if this is what Cicero had in mind, after seeing this lovely and quaint rainbow-colored Little Free Library, built with repurposed wood and other materials, and filled with a few choice books and periodicals leaning against an interior wall, it left me wondering if this was the start of something new or a part of a larger movement.

So, I decided to find out more about Little Free Libraries.

Open morning, noon and night.
Did you know: Little Free Libraries are part of a U.S. and worldwide community movement offering free books housed in small containers -- some resembling wooden doll houses -- for members of the local community. According to a recent story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there are more than 12,000 Little Free Libraries around the world in countries such as Italy, Japan, Brazil and Ukraine -- even Pakistan. They have a website, http://www.freelibrary.org, and, they even have a dedicated Facebook page with more than 36,000 likes.

Other names for these little free libraries include: community book exchanges, book trading posts, pop-up libraries, and Noox (Neighbourhood bOOk eXchange). Anything that encourages people to read more is a good thing. Fostering a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world adds up to a tremendous mission with a wonderful sense of purpose.

A friendly site in wintertime.
Even Hollywood has found a way to give a shout out to the movement's new-found popularity. Earlier this month, the new motion picture "The Book Thief", about a young girl's relationship with her foster parents, other residents of her neighborhood, and a Jewish fist-fighter who hides in her home during a period of heightened escalation in World War II, offered a special opportunity for Little Free Library stewards to spread the word about the importance of books by sharing photographs of their own little free libraries via Twitter and Instagram accompanied by the movie's hashtag #thebookthief.

The bottom line to this great community -- and worldwide concept -- is simple: Take a book, return a book ... as the sign says.

Oh, to have a hungry mind and to be able to nurture it!

To learn more about Little Free Libraries or to order a library, go to http://www.littlefreelibrary.org

Top photograph by Michael Dickens, copyright 2013. 
Other photographs courtesy of Google Images.

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