On August 26, I got off the number 10 bus, going home from work, when I noticed the Little Free Library behind St. Andrew’s on Western had the box fallen off of the post. It was upsetting to me because I was checking it regularly. I first thought it was vandalism but I found out recently from a Church employee that the top fell off. Anyway, I took a picture that day and posted it on Instagram but my sadness about the Library didn’t go away.
I moved to South Main over 2 years ago and fell in love with the neighborhood. I’m within walking distance to CVS, Price Chopper, my bank, and even the Pine Hills Library, which I should go to more often. I remember in the first week or two waiting for the Western Ave bus going downtown when I saw a guy in his 30’s wearing a black t-shirt and jeans checking the Free Library before taking a bus Uptown. I felt special to live in a neighborhood that loved books as much as I did.
Over the two years, every so often I would check to see what was there. Sometimes there wasn’t anything that I wanted. I wasn’t into Star Trek book or one written by
Rush Limbaugh. Still, I was able to find books I wanted to read, like The Immortalist by Chloe Benjamin and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I also took a copy of The Theater and It’s Double by Antonin Artaurd, not because I wanted a guide to acting but because of it’s beautiful purple cover and that it was an Evergreen Original by Grove Press. However, I was most excited to see old school detective novels by Rex Stout, Ellery Queen and Earle Stanley Gardner, who wrote the Perry Mason books. I was happy that someone in my neighborhood loved these kinds of books as much as I did. And before anyone complains, I also gave books to the Library for others to enjoy like First Loves and Other Sorrows by Harold Brodkey, Possession by A.S. Byatt, The Plague by Albert Camus and The Moonstone by Willkie Collins. They were all books my mom didn’t want me to bring down for her to read. I’m glad all of them found a new home.
Speaking of my mom, last year the town she lives in, Westfield, NJ, had their library install Free Little Libraries all over town, including my mom’s development. It is across my mom’s condo and I have a hard time avoiding it. I have checked it a couple of times. While it does have it’s fair share of Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks books, I have also found books I am interested in. Over Christmas, I found a copy of A Man Named Ove by Frederick Backman, I read on my trip back to Albany. I also took The Light Between the Oceans by M L. Steadman and The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman. My copies of Less and A Lesson Before Dying wound up in that library.
The Little Free Library was the brainchild of Todd Bol. It started out as a tribute to his mom, a teacher who loved books who had just passed away. He made the first one to resemble a one-room schoolhouse. According to Wikipedia, there are now over 90,000 libraries in 91 countries. Todd Bol died on October 18, 2018, but his simple idea of giving people a chance to share books has taken off.
I was told by a message on Facebook that St. Andrews is not going to put back the library right away. I’m not sure it’s because of lack of funds or if there is another reason but I would hope the Church decides otherwise. I’m sure the people living in the neighborhood would gladly donate money or time to restore it. Free Little Libraries are the literary heartbeat of a community. Elderly people could find a book that would comfort them during the harsh winter months and it would give a chance for a child whose parents may not be able to afford books the chance to own a book or two. I keep on hoping that one day I will see the Little Free Library restored to on its perch but for now I only see a wooden pole with no library sitting on top of it.