Little Free Libraries are supposed to be small structures where members of a community can leave or take a book with no fee or paperwork.
But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
Writing for Alternet.org, Dan Greenstone says that the Little Free Library, which his wife bought and he installed in his front yard, is a source of unending stress. It seems that no matter what books he put into the LFL, visitors were taking books and not replacing them:
I quickly took to the daily ritual of inventorying our stock to see what had gone into circulation. It was fun to see what sorts of title moved and which got passed over. But as the stacks on the nightstand shrank, a realization dawned on me. We were gonna run out of books. The math was daunting. Even before the spring strolling season had begun, we were losing two to three books a day. With warmer weather and the farmers’ market ahead of us, we could expect to bleed a thousand books a year.
But the lesson was clear. I wasn’t running a library. Libraries are built around the idea of circulation. And circulation implies a circle. What I had, aside from the contributions of a few kind neighbors on my block, was a one-way street of literary handouts. So it wasn’t long before I concluded that if I was going to stay in business, I had to reduce the outgoing volume.
Luckily I had an ace in the hole. At last year’s public library book sale, our family had, as a joke, played a game of “Find the Boringest Book.” And, not to brag, but we’d kicked some ass.
So imagine my surprise when, within 24 hours, a paper-bound copy of “Study Guide and Reference Material for Commercial Radio Operator’s’ Examination” (1955! edition) had vanished. 1965’s evergreen “Technical Analysis of Stock Trends” was next. “Aircraft Power Plants from Northrop Aeronautical” lasted just a few more days. And the winner of our boringest book contest? “Standard Mathematical Tables,” 22nd Edition, a nearly wordless and entirely incomprehensible collection of graphs, made it a week.
The accounting program I use in place of a sense of humor tells me that he may be joking, but I am not completely sure.
Either way, it brings up an interesting question. What’s the strangest thing you’ve found in a little free library?
LFLs are entirely volunteer-run, which means that each one can have a unique and eclectic collection. For example, the LFL nearest to me (see the lead photo) is sponsored by an elementary school, and so the selection consists mainly of kid’s books in English and Spanish. But I did find an (old) book on how to launch a modeling career, which I swapped for several SF books I didn’t like.
How about you? What have you found in a little free library?