“It’s a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring another book to share. You can, too!”
I love the idea of Little Free Libraries and I’m so excited that we have two of them in our neighborhood. I am not an e-book convert, so having a place to pass along books that I have read is great. Otherwise, they just pile up in my house. I thought that anyone who went through enough trouble to build and maintain a little library must be a book lover, so I sent a letter to the owners of the little libraries asking for an interview.
Debbie, the owner of the library on 5th street, graciously replied to my letter. We met in her beautiful home that is full of books.
My suspicion was right; Debbie and her husband Nick are both book lovers. Debbie is a writer and former English teacher. Nick is a fiction writer and teaches English at Hamilton High School in LA. Nick has an MFA and is friends with Adam Johnson, the man who won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Orphan Masters Son.”
They first read about the little library idea in an LA Times article back in 2012. I remember reading the same article and thinking that it was such a wonderful idea. What a great way to share books with the community and meet like-minded people in your neighborhood.
Nick built the library in the fall of 2012 and they officially registered with the Little Free Library organization. You can create a little library without registering, but for $35 you can become an “official” library and join a world-wide network of little libraries. Your library can be any type of structure. The red house on a post and accompanying bench that Debbie and Nick created reminds me of an old schoolhouse. The neighborhood loves it. Since its completion, the two shelves are always full of a rotating selection of books.
I sat down to talk with Debbie about a book that has influenced her life. She was quick to reply, “Catcher in the Rye.” She first read the book when she was in her early twenties. She loved the story and the tone of Caulfield’s voice. After 30 years, she is rereading it with her son, which has caused her to discover new things. She feels that when she was young she understood the book on a superficial level. Older, she now better understands “the little ways he’s hurting.”
As often happens, we quickly moved on to other books that she likes to read. She currently reads a lot of Young Adult books and has read everything by Zelda Fitzgerald. Thinking that Fitzgerald was a YA author, I was a bit confused at first. Turns out that Zelda Fitzgerald was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. She was an author in her own right and wrote stories, articles and one novel. She is also said to have had an influence on her husband’s work.
One thing all book lovers can agree on is that there is so little time to read. Debbie told me about a dream she has of being trapped alone in the Santa Monica library after an earthquake. In her dream she would be trapped for a week with books, a working water fountain and a vending machine. Sounds like heaven to me.
Before I left I asked if I could take some pictures of the books she had in her home. My desire for pictures led to the discovery of a great old photo album containing marvelous black and white photos. The photo album belonged to Nick’s grandmother, Lenore Coffee.” Apparently writing runs in the family. Lenore Coffee was a pioneer in Hollywood. She was one of the first female screenwriters. She began writing for silent films and them worked for MGM writing screenplays for movies staring the likes of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. How incredible to own such a wonderful piece of history.
On a side note, it turns out that Debbie and I have a common friend. It’s such a small world. I had a great time meeting my neighbor. Writing this blog has given me the opportunity to meet with and learn about so many fascinating people and places.
What do you think about Little Free Libraries? Perhaps you will start one in your neighborhood.