We will be doing the Little Free LIbrary in our front yard.
I have loved books since I was little. Where other little kids got caught skipping school in the playground or doing something rather unsavoury, teachers that sought me for being late or M.I.A. caught me (predictably at the time) in the library. What a little nerd. Now to be fair it was in the Dr.Seuss section, so not totally uncool. At present I live in the UK where libraries are free. At least for the time being. In fact the UK has something like 4,500 library “service points” but 600 libraries have closed since 2011. How many users do they get at these libraries? Do they reach the people who actually do love books- or could do so- had the idea of loving a book outside of school been embedded into their minds as strongly as it had been in mine?
Now the last time I had a library card outside the UK, it was a straightforward 10-minute process. Upon moving to London, I made the attempt twice and found it far too cumbersome. Life got in the way and I forgot about it and retreated to my old friend Amazon.
Irony of ironies: The Green Street Library was the only property deemed worthy of smashing in this East London neighbourhood.
Everyone in the world knows about the London Riots in August 2011. There was looting. There were fires in many parts of the city.
Nothing news-worthy happened in my neighbourhood. I remember us walking to the green grocer around the corner from our house to suss out the general feeling at the height of the drama. The corner-store Turkish East Londoners said almost nonchalantly that they had our backs, they had their brothers and cousins on the lookout and the families in our area were totally safe.
So nothing earth shattering, really; no trouble except as pictured on the left: Young hooligans broke the windows to the Green Street Library.
The Thinking behind it all…
Now I’m not saying the hooligans smashed the Green Street Library because they had as much trouble as I had getting a library card. Nor am I saying the Little Free Library in our home is to replace the British ones. This idea latched onto me a few months back when I found it in Elizabeth Banks’ website (I love her). These little boxes help to promote literacy, and help build a sense of community.
I’m a big fan of both those things.
The Little Free Library started when Todd Bol built a small structure (a glorified birdhouse if you will) and filled it with books in honor of his late mother, a school teacher and avid reader. He placed the structure on his front lawn with a sign encouraging curious visitors to “Take a Book. Leave a Book.” The spirit of the project fuelled the start of The Non-Profit organisation Little Free Library Project.
In 2011 there were 100 libraries. As of April 2013, there are over 6,000. Do the math – that’s about 2 million books shared. They aim to have 25,000 libraries by the end of the year. At time of writing it hasn’t quite reached the UK yet.
Starting one couldn’t be easier:
One could buy a Little Free Library original, super-easy, comes with the identifying tag. Or you could team up with builders, artists, and others to make a group effort at it.
Back to the future, and a point about young hooliganism: What if sociologists are right and in many gang situations you’ll find an odd one. The one that hangs with the Alpha Males but isn’t quite a gangster and is there to (A) Not get beaten up by others, or (B) Feel accepted, or (C) not get beaten up by those with whom he hangs.
The aforementioned Odd One would very likely not be caught dead in the library.
But what if it took this wannabe-hooligan-Odd-One a few times walking past our Little Free Library before curiosity got the better of him…
And he is one day walking without the Alpha Male Hooligan entourage as he picks up a book.
It could change his life, or it could be a catalyst to something interesting. You never really know until you try these things.
I do know that the idea has latched, it’s grown in my Dr.Seuss-infected mind for quite a few weeks now and it’s time for me to just run with it.
Would you give a book for this project?
Is it an idea you can pass on to someone else?