I first met Todd Bol, creator and head honcho of Little Free Libraries when I emailed him out of the blue to see if he'd be interested in working with another charity I do some stuff for. In all honesty, I've kind of been a fan of these things for a long time… as an avid reader, I loathed packing up my books and either donating them or taking them to my local used book merchant. I'd always wished there was a better way to dispense of the books I'd enjoyed so much, rather than just tossing them to the wind. They meant much more than that to me. And that's where LFL came into play.
Around 2013, I finally got around to purchasing my own LFL. My family and I stained it and we planted our post right there on the front lawn for all the world to enjoy. We filled it with some of our favorite books. I remember going to one of our local used book joints and purchasing like three or four copies of Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth, as it's my most favorite book, graphic or otherwise, ever printed (if you've never read it, PLEASE stop reading and go purchase it right now. If it doesn't crush your soul, I will fight you.) My kids put some of their favorite Suessian books and my wife a few as well… And it was as Todd Bol had promised… the community came. They borrowed books, they traded books, they introduced me to new books I'd never heard of. It was sort of the hub that was promised. And the best part is that I found myself talking to neighbors I would never before have spoken to.
Little Free Libraries has been called a "revolution in neighborhood conversation"… it continues to gain a groundswell of support from all forms of media because of how this simple idea – essentially a box of books on a stick – manages to bring people together to redefine the notion of what it is to be a community.
And Little Free Library is trying to go beyond that. LFL has grown beyond small neighborhoods and aims to redefine the relationships between various police departments and the areas they serve. Using the simple idea that books begets community begets new understanding, LFL has developed "Libraries of Understanding," a new program that aims to establish and rebuild the relationship between police and the community. Todd and Co. have designs on providing Little Free Libraries available to each of the 18,000 police departments across the country, so that people in any neighborhood, anywhere in the country can gather, exchange books, exchange ideas and hopefully, extend the idea of what it means to be a community.
So far, LFL has donated 60 book exchanges and LFL's to the LAPD as well as police departments in Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans and El Paso. Minneapolis and New York are next.
Now, since I am the steward of my library, it's up to me to maintain and curate what goes in and what goes out. But I have a stock of books ready to go. Most of these places don't. We need to get books into the hands of people who desperately want and need them. But doing this obviously come with a price tag. It costs about a $1,000 to build, ship and install a Little Free Library, and that figure includes about a year's worth of books. Is this the elixir that will cure everything that's wrong? No. Maybe not the ultimate answer. But it is an answer. And it's simple: I can tell you from experience it works. People gather. They start talking. They listen to each other. They laugh. They smile. Look, when you're talking about books, it's hard to yell and feel rage or scorn or divisiveness. You can have a difference of opinion, there can be critical chasms, sure, but hell, I'll take that any day over some of the things that are happening around the country at this very moment.
So, yeah, this is a small change. But small changes beget bigger changes. And I, for one, would rather have a billion little changes than no change at all. Todd and Co are working their asses off trying to get these libraries into neighborhoods that really, really need and deserve this.
Please visit littlefreelibrary for more info. They've raised over $50,000 to create the momentum necessary to light a fire under the "Libraries of Understanding" campaign, and set up programs across the country. Every donation helps them put books where they're needed and rebuilding communities and re-establishing healthy discourse.
I think it's time. Sometimes, a little out of the box thinking can start a revolution.
P.S.: I have no more copies of Jimmy Corrigan.