If you read yesterday's post, the natural answer to today's question about what I'm up to would be "Trouble." But, no, I'm not up to too much trouble, really. In my role as the personification of the clerkmanifesto I have been busying about my local Little Free Libraries. Some time ago I embarked upon a project where I hand grafted masses of clerkmanifesto essays into old weeded books, hand painted the covers, and generally prepared bespoke clerkmanifesto books for dissemination to the community at large. I have some pictures (here). The only problem with these was that they were so laborious to make that, well, I still haven't finished more than a few. So, as an alternative, I have put together little themed journals of posts. These have gone much better. They come in series of about 20 and I am working on the second volume now. The first volume, called Forced to be Better, I have been distributing into Little Free Libraries. I put them facing out of the little library windows to give them a starting advantage and mostly let them find their own way in the world. In a corollary project I have been collecting any books I find that are on my list of loved books (here), and I have been putting them out into the wee libraries as well. All of this has been giving me a much closer acquaintance with the Little Free Libraries. This acquaintance has deepened my feelings about them without particularly altering my sense of them.
Because Sundays here are casual days, I thought I'd try just switching over to more of a list mode to express what I adore about Little Free Libraries, followed by the bit about their problems, or really, their problem, as, basically, there is just the one problem when it comes to Little Free Libraries (LFLs).
So, the things I love:
1. Their mushroom nature. Little Free Libraries have sprouted madly in my neighborhoods, overnight, in the rain, in the sun, in the wind, in the freezing fog, at dawn, at dusk, but always, always more and more and more.
2. Their individuality. There does seem to be a nice, unifying website devoted to LFLs and for a lot of money I think you can even buy a Little Free Library. But of the twenty or so I have pretty easily tracked down around here I don't think I've found any pair that even comes close to a match. To my surprise I have sort of fixated on latches, and have found Libraries with hook and eye latches, wood pegs in holes, wood slides and wood rotating latches. There have been magnets, metal bolts and ones that stay closed because they're hinged at the top. There was a rotating knob and something that fitted and clicked. And these are just the latches!
3. They're Quixotic! Who are all these people going "Today I will put a house on a stick and it will work as a free Library!"? What a ridiculous idea. Dreamers one and all. It will never work! But they just do it anyway!
4. It's Anarchy! Heck, I'm just a bit of an Anarchist myself, and yet, seeing real anarchy in action in the world I get all confused. I become respectful of some authority that isn't even there. Aren't there some rules I'm supposed to follow? Isn't someone going to come out of the nearby house and start yelling at me? No and no, or, at least, I don't think they are.
5. They're so homely. Oh, the little houses on a pole are generally pretty cute, or homely in the prettiest sense of the word, but open them up and what a bland looking bunch of rubbish. Yet again, look closely at all the rubbish and you may find a favorite book in some crappy edition, a lost classic, a hidden gem, or, of course, most likely, just rubbish, which brings us to...
1. What a bunch of junk! Yes, I'm afraid LFLs need a lot of curating. As I said I have started putting things in Little Free Libraries, but I think they need a good bit of weeding more even than the positive additions. Weed your LFLs! How do you know that you're not being disrespectful and getting rid of someone else's carefully chosen favorite book? I say trust your instincts. If your gut tells you that New Analysis in Practical Agronomy 1962 was dumped rather than placed in your local LFL, go with your instincts. The situation is dire enough that we can all live with a mistake or two. Just, if it looks like a homemade little journal, maybe leave it in there, and face it prominently out toward the window.