The Secrets of Our Neighborhood Exposed by A Little Free Library / by Alex Gaydos

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About a year ago we installed a Little Free Library on the front lawn of our house. Our Little Free Library is an unofficial one. We installed it on the corner of our property with little fanfare and never registered it. As a consequence, the library is not part of the (admittedly very cool) network of Little Free Libraries all around the world. Instead, our library is a decidedly micro affair, reflecting something really wonderful…the kindness, generosity and quirkiness of our neighborhood.

The library is much more than a decorated little box that holds some books. It actually has a personality, a presence, a certain kind of soulfulness about it. Here are some surprising things I’ve noticed about the library.

  • It is completely self-sustaining. We don’t add, subtract, or curate the contents.
  • It attracts visitors most days, no matter what the weather.
  • It welcomes people of all ages who arrive on purpose or by mistake.
  • It showcases all the ways people get around our neighborhood. They walk up (with kids, baby strollers, dogs, friends, spouses or alone), ride up (on a bike, scooter, skateboard, or roller skates) or drive up (who would have guessed so many people would actually drive up in a car to get or give a book).

Looking in the library is like unwrapping a present. There is always something unexpected inside. Many times a classic children’s book will appear, and evoke all those beloved bedtime stories I shared with my kids. Sometimes the library is heavy on mysteries or reference books or philosophy or poetry, or really cheesy romance novels. Right now the library is housing multiple books related to Princess Diana and the royal family (who knew we had royal family enthusiasts in the neighborhood)?  Frankly, I’m surprised at the breadth and depth of our neighborhood’s store of books.

One of my favorite Little Free Library moments this year was seeing an old, slightly tattered copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” This instantly brought me back to the comfort I received escaping into that book during the summer of one of my uneasy teenage years. Several days later, I saw a young woman, alone, in the window of our local sandwich shop with that very book in her hand. I don’t know why it made me so happy. Maybe it was imagining her face when she found the book in the library.

Or maybe it was realizing how many of these small moments of connection the library has made possible; the realization that something so simple, and generous, and kind, as sharing a book could cause someone to have a new insight, a good laugh, or a cry. Or maybe just a moment when the world, which is “too much with us; late and soon” fades away just a bit and allows some new possibility to come through.