Bibliophile

Before I could ride a bike, before I could identify birds by sight and song, before any other love or hobby, came books.

Easton Library
photo – City of Burlingame

One of the earliest adventures I recall  involved walking to the Easton Library in my hometown of Burlingame, California. It was a big deal to walk with just my older sister and brother to the end of our street, hike a dirt trail that connected to Easton Road, and trot down the sidewalk to the library. I doubt I was more than 4 years old at the time but that mile and a half held the charm of the Yellowbrick Road. Easton is a sweet neighborhood branch where I first learned the joy of borrowed books and summer reading programs. It was a magical and sacred place to a young bibliophile. It provided a safe place to fall in love with words, writing, books, and learning. It was the first step in my education, an education that I value to this day.

To say that books have been significant in my life would be a gross understatement. At times a compulsive reader and book buyer, I’ve read my way through teenage angst, dealt with early adulthood by disappearing into novels, and coped with lost loves, all through the grace of books.

I have many very special books:

  • Books treasured as a legacy: I have several of my grandfather’s childhood books and bird books,  a Charles Dickens set that I revered since I first spied it on my mother’s book case, books that my cousin has given me for my birthday(s).  I’ve many books I’ve purchased over the years.
  • Books that guide me: field guides, maps, atlases, travel books
  • Books that entertain: fiction, fantasy, comedy (a la Edward Gorey)
  • Books that educate: non-fiction, biography, memoirs, reference books, natural history writing

Regardless of their purpose or how they arrived in my life, I believe someday I’ll need to reread or use those books for reference so they are all hoarded,  all impossible to ever part with.

However, even more than I love being surrounded by books at home, I love libraries. I’ve been fortunate to visit some of the world’s famous libraries: Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA; the New York Metropolitan Library (where I got choked-up passing the stately lions); and Trinity College Library Long Room in Dublin (which left me breathless). Yet it’s a small, humble, and surprising little library that I recently discovered that I just can’t thinking about.  This little library had barely a dozen books but looms large on the sidewalk where it sits.

It’s a Little Free Library in Portland. Evidently, Little Free Libraries are popping up all across North America. The one I stumbled upon is # 1827.

The mission of Little Free Library is simple:

To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations
To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world – more than Andrew Carnegie!

Of course the sight of this tiny library has set me to plotting. I must create one too! So, I’m scheming, taking inventory of scrap lumber, hinges, and of course books, to fill another little free library. I may dream for a while, work too much, put this project off until winter, but I will indeed create one. I encourage you to do the same. Who knows some budding bibliophile may adventure past your branch and have her life changed forever.

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8 thoughts on “Bibliophile

  1. This is a great idea! I wish I had more faith in my neighborhood to sustain such a program. If you need some seed books, let me know—I have a small batch that will otherwise be donated to the library one of these days.

    Another program I have done since about 2006 is called BookCrossing (bookcrossing.com). You can find books out in the wild at thousands of neighborhood drop spots (called “crossing zones”), or share with people across the country who contact you. It’s fun to log the book’s progress around the world!

  2. A friend and I were planning some sort of lending library out here in Lents, but this may be the ticket. Something so right about a little house of books dotting the neighborhood landscape — suppose this is creating those “walking down the Yellow Brick Road” memories for those who never had/have such easy access to libraries. Thanks for posting!

    • You’re welcome for posting!

      I was lucky to have a mom, aunt, grandmother, older sister and teachers who all stoked my passion for books. I know what it’s meant to me and am glad to hear that you’re thinking about kids without book-loving parents who might find a magic book box on their street and grow up to devour words and ideas as a result. Perhaps a Little Library building party is in our future…perhaps a certain rebuilding supply place might lend a few parts to our project?

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