Posted by: Blue Horizon Books | November 7, 2018

“Little” Bookstores and Libraries

I ♥ “little” bookstores – independent bookstores, mom and pop bookstores, specialty subject bookstores, used book bookstores, you name it.  No offense, Barnes & Noble.  I hope and pray you manage to survive, and continue to provide millions of us with places to purchase gifts, browse books and magazines, and get a Starbucks coffee to sip while we peruse your books and magazines for free or just borrow your wifi to get some work done. So, no offense, but just like everyone who has ever watched the movie, You’ve Got Mail, I was, and still am, rooting for the Little (Book) Shop Around the Corner.

God knows I buy enough of my books from Amazon (if not so many from B&N) and I thank them for their place in the marketplace of books, in which they have made it so easy – and cheap! – to get my hands on a particular volume that I need quickly. Or just make an impulse buy.

However, when I read articles like this one from the Observer, reporting on statistics showing that (as we all knew would happen at some point), e-book popularity seems to have reached a plateau, and independent bookstores are thriving, I can’t help but send out a big cheer.  Go, indies!

I ♥ libraries too. They elicit fond childhood memories, to begin with, of my many hours spent in the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington, Indiana. The public libraries that we have here on Long Island have also provided fodder for many fond adult memories. These libraries are not just repositories of books and magazines, books on tape and DVDs, but they are also community centers which provide book clubs and classes for kids (free!) and adults; they have art showings; they provide an auditorium for the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to hold meetings. They occasionally sell off some of their collection, and will take donations of (some of) your old books. They are the type of place you are always running into people you know.

My favorite library, however, is the “Little Free Library” — little mini-libraries that look like dollhouses on poles,

where you can leave a book you’ve read for someone else to enjoy, or select a book left by someone else for your own reading. Leave a book, share a book.

The Free Little Libraries were the brainchild of Todd Bol who, in 2009, decided to pay homage to his schoolteacher mother, a lover of books. He built a miniature schoolhouse, filled it with his mother’s books and put it out for his neighbors in Hudson, Wisconsin, as a book exchange. Today, there are  over 75,000 Free Little Libraries. They are in all 50 states, and 88 countries.

Full disclosure: I have never actually seen a Free Little Library myself, or used one as a book exchange, but my daughter discovered one near her apartment in Brooklyn several years ago, and was delighted with it!  I’ve been intrigued ever since. However, in checking the Free Little Library web site, which tracks where these mini-libraries are located, I found that there are none at all here on Long Island.  So, maybe it’s up to me to start one!

The Free Little Library web site provides complete instructions to take you through the process of setting up a library in your community, including registering your site so people will know where it is, because it’s not just a matter of building a cute little house on a pole and filling it with books. There’s the matter of finding a well-trafficked public location and getting permission to locate the Little Library there – and it will likely involve making sure your proposal is zoning compliant! It takes a commitment of someone or some group to be the on-going caretaker of the Little Library.

So, I’m now exploring it as a way to share my love of books and reading, and spreading my love of literacy, and my love of little bookstores and little libraries. As their motto says: Give a book, share a book.

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