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