I watched from my office window this morning as a man stopped in front of my house. He unlatched the door of the tiny turquoise structure that’s perched on a post outside the picket fence and ducked his head out of sight. When he resumed his walk, his Labrador straining the leash, golden river birch leaves falling at his feet, the man held a book in his hand.
From the moment I caught my first glimpse of a Little Free Library (LFL)—the one at the curb on Sheridan Boulevard, a miniature replica of the classic bungalow behind it—I was smitten. As the years passed and additional LFLs sprung up in neighborhoods around Lincoln, I grew more and more enchanted.
Back in 2009 Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher who loved reading. He put it on a post in his front yard and filled it with books. His neighbors and friends loved it, so he made several more and gave them away. Six years later, it’s estimated there are approximately 25, 000 Little Free Libraries worldwide.
Last month, I decided I wanted LFL No. 25, 001 in my front yard.
“It says right here you can make one in a weekend, ” I said to my husband as I scrolled through sample blueprints online. “Come on, it’ll be fun, ” I cajoled.
Needless to say, I must have missed the website’s fine print. Clearly they had carpenter, not English professor, in mind when they suggested the LFL as a weekend project.
One month, eight pages of rumpled, tea-stained instructions, multiple trips to the hardware store and countless YouTube videos later, Brad hammered the final nail into our very own Little Free Library.
Caulked and waterproofed, turquoise paint dry, Plexiglas window snugly in place, I held the structure steady as Brad pressed dirt around the post. I hung a festive banner, laid flagstone pavers and positioned a pot of bright yellow mums at its base (clearly my job was curb appeal). And then we filled our Little Free Library with books.
Ben from around the corner brought a selection of Goosebumps paperbacks. His little sister Betsy slid a Finding Nemo picture book onto the lower shelf. Marge and Karna donated a handful of books each, and Deidra and Alleigh cycled across town to add their contributions. By evening, our LFL was stocked with an eclectic collection of contemporary fiction, classic literature, cookbooks, religion, self-help and Green Eggs & Ham.
As I organized the shelves, Amber from across the street came out to snap a photo. Bob from three houses down stopped to admire Brad’s craftsmanship. The fellow whose name I don’t even know drove past his own house and idled in front of ours to chat about his penchant for philosophy books.
In less than an hour, we chatted with more neighbors than we’d had in the last six months.
After the grand opening, I checked the shelves daily, but was disappointed to find that turn-over was slow. As the weeks have passed, however, I’ve come to appreciate the humble, laid-back nature of our Little Free Library. It’s no Barnes and Noble or busy city library, and it’s not supposed to be. Instead, our little library caters to the dog-walkers, the amblers and the wanderers, to the grandma pushing the baby stroller and the cyclist slowly pedaling by on a vintage Schwinn, a woven basket clipped to the metallic handlebars.
Last week, when I jogged past Betsy’s house, I noticed a hand-lettered sign scotch-taped to the railing outside her front door, an arrow pointing down the street toward our house. “Librie this way. Bring a book and take a book, ” the sign read, in rainbow magic marker. Turns out, our little turquoise library is still the talk of the neighborhood, at least among the kindergarten set.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish