In the corner of one of the neighborhoods near me, there sits a small nook where people can leave books for others to read and take books to adopt as their own. This neighborhood library is part of the Little Free Library system. Little Free Libraries are based on a simple principle; people can use them to exchange free books. Though the project only began in 2009, there are already 40,000 Little Free Libraries around the world, and the project is still growing.
The Little Free Library that I know is lovely, well-maintained, and always full of books. The reading options inside of it are equally appropriate for the community; there are popular thrillers, cozy romances, and picture books. Though the books sit close to the elements, I’ve never seen one battered by wind and rain. They are always in decent condition. The library acts as a lovely emblem of the warmth and community of its neighborhood.
Despite its strengths, the library is also in a place that doesn’t truly need it. The houses that surround it are among the most expensive in town, and the people who use the library could certainly afford their own books. I don’t begrudge the neighborhood it’s little library, but I wish that some of the housing areas with less access to books had a sustainable program like it.
Of course what I want for these other neighborhoods isn’t something that Little Free Libraries are prepared to do. I don’t want patrons who have few resources to feel obligated to leave a book when they borrow one, especially if they don’t have any books available. I suppose what passing my Little Free Library does is that it makes me wish that social infrastructure was better able to get books into the hands of everyone who wants to read. That might mean more funding to local libraries or it may mean that more alternatives to libraries should exist. Of course both of those options take time. And money.
So now you all know my secret. If a pile of gold appears in my bedroom tomorrow, I’ll set up scholarships, give funding to education and the arts, and I’ll work on making sure that people in all different types of neighborhoods have access to books whether it is through a public library, a little free one, or something else entirely.
Despite my criticisms of the Little Free Libraries, I love the spirit of them. I just wish I could figure out a way to make sure everyone could enjoy something like them.
(And pardon my reflection in the top image. My arm says, “Hello.”)