Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 7, 2019

National Library Week; Little Free Libraries, Eugene, Oregon

Welcome to National Library Week, April 7-13, 2019. As always, I celebrate it.

Libraries are critically important institutions, whether in large cities, small towns or remote rural areas. Libraries not only provide access to information, but are often the focus of a town or area’s commitment to improving the lives of citizens.

Library Week recognizes the importance of free, public institutions and the people who work in them, providing a wide variety of resources and services: books, reference materials, periodicals (sometimes archived for many years), research material like genealogy or local history, innumerable online resources and — especially — professionally qualified staff.

Libraries aren’t just buildings, although I do enjoy visiting the physical plants, whether mammoth establishments, like the Los Angeles Central Library …

LA Central Library Brad Nixon 3418 (640x469)

Or small ones, like Ferndale, California.

But I’ll start this week at even smaller scale: a minuscule, grassroots example of making books available to all. They’re numerous, and located all over the place. I encountered more than a dozen of them alone during a recent visit to Eugene, Oregon, like this one.

Little Free Library Brad Nixon 4852 680

That’s a “Little Free Library.” You might find one almost anywhere, typically in a residential neighborhood, often one where people walk, instead of just driving.

You may be familiar with the idea. You can “deposit” books in a Little Free Library for others to take, or take a book that appeals to you. Share and share alike.

Like library buildings, themselves, Little Free Library boxes can be plain or elaborately styled (click on the small images in this post to view full size).

Some of my favorites are ones constructed to mimic the house where the owners reside.

I favor the idea of the Little Free Library. It’s an excellent way to share books one values but won’t read again. Rather than let it collect dust on a shelf, it becomes available to a passing browser, yielding discoveries to be made along the lines of, “I always meant to read that ….”

You’ll see official Little Free Library organization plaques on some of the boxes in this post, not all. To look for ones registered in your area, or sign up to host your own, you can find the ones officially registered at the littlefreelibrary.org website. Although officially registering provides some additional visibility, there’s nothing to prevent you from doing the same thing independently: It’s still a worthwhile idea.

I spoke to one “proprietor” of a Little Free Library. He told me that in three years, he’s never had any vandalism problems. Occasionally, he said, he weeds out advertising, promotional catalogs, etc., to limit the contents to books, not commerce.

Eugene’s a university town, and that might account for some of the idea’s popularity there, but The University of Oregon doesn’t dominate the city. Everyone likes books — not just teachers and students — and the world is full of curious readers. You’ll find Little Free Libraries in non-academic towns too.

The styles of the boxes vary by taste, and their contents depend on the whims and chances of “depositors.” There’s an egalitarian, free-form and ever-changing variety of books on offer.

Obviously, Little Free Libraries are no substitute for professionally staffed- and equipped public libraries with their well-curated holdings, Internet service and expert assistance. But, heck: They’re fun! Yes, Eugene has a large public library downtown, as well as two branches. But the town’s embrace of Little Free Libraries proves there’s a place for grass-roots book sharing, too.

Do you maintain a Little Free Library, or use one regularly? Please leave a comment. As the week progresses, I’ll look at some more traditional library establishments. Don’t forget to thank a librarian … even if it’s your neighbor — in example below at the edge of a park in the SUN district of Eugene: South University. Happy reading.

Little Free Library M Vincent 4485 680

Addendum: Little Miss Traveller at Love Travelling observed in a comment that some iconic red telephone boxes in the UK have been repurposed to be miniature book repositories. An excellent idea. Blogger Nothingintherulebook wrote about them, with photos at this link.

© Brad Nixon 2019. Two photos © M. Vincent 2019. One photo © Willard Nixon 2019, all used by kind permission.


Responses

  1. Having spent some years working in libraries as an academic librarian I found this post most interesting. As I’m sure you are aware, I like nothing more than seeking out libraries wherever I travel and have come across many gems over the years. Returning to your post on miniature libraries, did you know that quite a few of our old iconic red telephone boxes have now been turned into depositories for books and they seem to be working well and kept well stocked, clean and tidy and free from vandalism. I hope you are enjoying a pleasant weekend. It’s a bright, sunny morning here as I sit in a pub window tucking into my Sunday morning breakfast with my family.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a tremendous through — the telephone boxes as libraries! I’ll look out for some online. Thanks so much. Happy to think of you enjoying a sunny day. Sunny here, and coffee’s ready!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Next time I pass a phone box library I’ll try and remember to stop and take a photo for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you!

        Like

  2. Great post 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Thanks for both reading and commenting.

      Like

  3. I love stopping at Little Free Libraries and checked out several on my trip. Even though I don’t always have a book to give at the time, I put some in later. My community has one of the busiest libraries per capita in the nation, and we also have lots of Little Free Libraries! Both can thrive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. A library’s much more than a shelf of books, but the neighborhood reach and person-to-person connectedness of the LFL concept is powerful, too. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I wondered when the Free Little Libraries began, since I’ve only heard of them in the past few years. I found this interesting history, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Blogging friends in England and Finland have mentioned them, and even established their own.

    The concept’s not new, of course, although the form has evolved. In the cruising world, the custom of exchanging books is decades old: so old that even Captain Queeg might have been able to borrow a book, had he been so inclined.

    I’ve not yet been in a marina that doesn’t have a book corner somewhere, for sailors to leave books they’ve read and pick up a new stash for the next leg of the journey. In anchorages around the world, mixing a drink usually comes first after the anchor falls, but trading books happens eventually. Probably the oddest little library I’ve found was tucked into a corner of Foxy’s, a well-known watering hole in Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgins, and somewhere I have a photo of a friend and me on some Bahamian island next to a sign shaped like an arrow that’s pointing to “Ice, Beer, and Books.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! “Ice, beer, books” sums up some ethos of the cruising life, although one might need to add “music,” at least for some.
      I’d forgotten about the book stashes in and near marinas. I’ve encountered them in the lake and river ports of the Great Lakes, primarily Michigan. After all, there’s nothing better than sitting on a boat with a book.
      Note the addendum I added to the post just as your “like” arrived, about the traditional UK red telephone boxes being used there as free book stalls.
      Happy sails to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What a wonderful use of those telephone boxes. It makes perfect sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice pictures of the little free libraries. There’s 1 of them I know about in the small city where I live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that. Yes, they’re everywhere. Just spotted one a few miles from my house, on a route I drive a couple of times a week … not certain if it’s always been there, or if it’s new.

      Like

  6. Any kind of library is a good library, big or small! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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