Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Little Free Library



     Wow, talk about a firehose of reader email. My column yesterday, a plain-spoken reaction to the poisonous eruption of textbook racism vomiting forth from the White House over the weekend, just pinned the needle. I spent a few hours trying to answer, then gave up and began ignoring it—letting a few dozen responses gather in my Spam and Trash folders, giving a quick once over through squinted eyes, then deleting.
      Not that it was all bad—I know I sometimes give that impression. Actually, a large number of people grateful to see reason reflected in the newspaper, easily as much as those outraged to see their support of a flat-out bigot clearly described. The response was a kind of inverse Bell curve—very little in the middle, with steep slopes on either side. 
     For today, I pulled on hip boots, grabbed a squeegee, metaphorically, and went to work trying to arrange the muck into a kind of tableau that could be shared and understood. What supporters of Trump do to rationalize their perfidy is sorta interesting. They focus on the insult of calling them what they are—"You're saying I'm a bigot! I'm offended!"—instead of considering that they're being called this because they carry water for a manifest racist. Or they recast the matter—"This is what liberals do when someone disagrees!"—as if it was a potato-potahto matter of equal significance. "You envision an America where all races are treated as equal citizens, I see a Christian white supremacist state where freedoms are ignored to maintain minority right wing power; can't we just agree to disagree?"
     But a weariness quickly set in. What's the point? To whose benefit? Certainly not mine. Why think on it? I've already done that too much—particularly when you can consider this colorful "Little Free Library" that went up recently in my leafy suburban paradise, in front of Greenbriar Elementary School, where my boys learned their letters, a serene brick structure a block west of our house. 
    Very soon after this charming  purple, orange and green cabinet caught my eye, The Northbrook Tower, a sprightly and readable free weekly, ran an article telling all about the box, crediting Greenbriar librarian Collen Sanchez for the idea. According to the article—by Grady Bruch, editorial intern, credit where due—the concept began in Wisconsin in 2009, and from there spread. Now more than 4,000 Little Free Libraries grace a nation in dire need of grace. I was impressed that this attractive and professional work of folk art was created by Greenbriar students, themselves, not some professional artist elsewhere. Good job kids! Well done. Three elementary schools—Greenbriar, Meadowbrook and Westmoor each have one. 
   Inside is stocked with children's books, free for the taking, though I won't be partaking soon. My house already has too many and I have no one to read them to. Which gives me an idea. The boys of course will want to pluck treasures to delight their own progeny, who'll arrive one of these days, sooner than expected, given how the years have been snapping by. That leaves us with plenty. I think I'll make a habit of, on my walks with Kitty, of taking one from our house and donating it to the Free Little Library, now and then, where it can be savored once again, as books should be. There is joy to life—it isn't all Donald Trump and and self-blinded fans driving a great nation to its knees in shame. There is color and hope and generosity and children's books tucked behind glass doors in Little Free Library boxes. 


 

12 comments:

  1. I love my Kindle but I can't give the book to the library like I could with "real" printed books. Regarding the Trumpers, come on out on Saturday to your local rally against Trump's immigration policies and show that Americans do care. Here's a link if you are looking for a local demonstration: https://act.moveon.org/event/families-belong-together_attend1/search/.

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  2. Maybe I'm dumb, but I don't quite get how this works. Do they trust people to take the books and then return them? Or is this one of those "take-a-book-leave-a-book" deals? I've known libraries to do that with regular books, except in short order the rack is stocked with nothing but James Patterson paperbacks. (I think entire states have been deforested to print that guy's novels.)

    As for the Trump supporters, at least they're still indignant about being called racists. When they start to shrug it off or, worse, wear the label proudly, I'll really worry.

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    1. you just take one. or leave one. or take one and leave one. you can bring one you took back. if the mood strikes you. no james Patterson , kids books only

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  3. Here's an absurd thought to ponder: Someday there will be a Donald J Trump Presidential Library. I know, right? I imagine it being on a post. Maybe a bit smaller than a Little Free Library. Probably more along the lines of a snowplow-battered rural mailbox.

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    1. When he was first elected, I thought glumly: "He's going to be on those presidential place mats." I even called a place mat company, but to no effect.

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    2. If he lands in prison, will he still get a presidential museum? Will there be a bronze statue with an orange jumpsuit and shower flip-flops?

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    3. Tony: Mike Pence will pardon him, and he'll have a library like Nixon's, dedicated to the idea that he was the victim of a partisan witch hunt.

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    4. Last fall, I went to the annual Arts Festival in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. The port-a-johns in Lincoln Park (yes, we have one, too, but only a few blocks square) had signs taped to each door. reading "Donald J. Trump Presidential Library"...and one of them now decorates the wall in my throne room. So, you see, his library already exists.

      Don't know how well the Little Free Library movement is faring in Illinois, but I've seen many of them in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Here in Ohio, not so much. Maybe two or three exist in my part of town. And yet, Ohio is overrun with competing library systems, many of which overlap and afford a resident multiple choices...especially during our lousy winters and springs. Go figure, huh?

      In addition, Ohio is supposedly one of the "reading-est" states in the country, with more library books checked out per capita than most of the others (that lousy weather, doncha know). But the movement just didn't catch on here, despite the accessibility and availability of plans and blueprints. Perhaps interested parties feared theft, vandalism, and destruction. So they didn't build (and stock) those charming outdoor cabinets. We are voracious readers and buried in books. We're on a busy corner, in a nice neighborhood. If you build it, they will come. But we never did.

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    5. Just checked their map...maybe two dozen within a ten-mile radius, which has a population of several hundred thousand people (the average density is about 6,000 per square mile). That is not a whole lot of boxes for a major metropolitan area.

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  4. Re the Trumpers: Boggles my mind daily that I live among millions of the most horrible people on earth. Who knew????

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  5. I've seen a couple of these book-boxes and I regularly pass the one on Euclid Ave just east of Arlington Hts Rd. I've never stopped as parking on Euclid would create problems so this unit is just for walkers in that neighborhood. I think this is a great idea and gives a little hope for the prospects for continued human decency. I do have one question, why would anyone read a second James Patterson book?

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  6. We have a bunch of these library boxes in Downers Grove. We also have a new box, that a young boy made, called the Blessing Box. In it, it has shelf stable food items for the less fortunate. It has a sign on it that says take what you need, give what you can. That box gives me much hope.

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