I remember a couple years back reading an intriguing article in American Profile — a weekly national publication that was provided as part of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin — about roadside mini-libraries. It’s a movement that has spread across America and to the world beyond. I remember at the time thinking, “that’s a great idea! I wonder if it will catch on here?”
Imagine my pleasant surprise when our neighbors, Brent and Theresa, built and installed one of these little jewels along the road in front of their house a couple of years back.
While this column is called the “Garden Spot,” those of you that have been readers for the last couple years know that I have the habit of wandering just a bit from strict gardening themes. Depending on your viewpoint, this can be either endearing or agitating. I don’t mean to mislead anyone. There’s a reason for broadening the topic a bit (beyond my own short attention span — let’s see, what was I talking about?). My rationale is this: gardening is a holistic activity. It’s enjoyed in the larger context of life overall.
Gardeners by nature are industrious people that enjoy both thinking, putting in the effort, as well as enjoying the results. They also tend to be community-minded, and that’s the tie to our subject today.
Great gardens and yardscapes create an inviting place for visits and wonderful backdrops for outdoor events, including neighborhood get-togethers. Providing a place, at no charge, where the folks of our community can pick up and leave good books is a natural community-builder, and it fits right in the values of us that work the soil around our places.
In a way, we are planting a different type of garden. We are planting the seeds of creativity, learning and imagination when we encourage the love of reading. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to make the valid observation that more of a person’s mind is engaged reading a good book than when watching a movie, or playing a video game or gazing at a smart phone for hours on end.
Lest you gauge me to be a curmudgeon, I’m simply pointing out the fact that reading causes us to use more of our minds and imaginations than the other aforementioned activities. The reason is simple. When I read, I have to mentally create the entire setting that is being described by the author. I envision what the characters look like, what their voices sound like, the scenery, sounds, smells and temperature that is being experienced. Not so when watching something where all this is already done for you!
Back to our neighborhood micro-library. Our neighbors are part of an international movement that began in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin. Todd Bol built the first one, as a tribute to his mother. Todd’s mother was a schoolteacher who loved reading. Fittingly, the first Little Free Library was modeled after a one-room schoolhouse. The idea caught on, incorporating historical literacy efforts ranging from the public library model, to earlier pioneer traveling libraries, to current book exchanges in public places.
LittleFreeLibrary.org is the official website of the organization. Its mission is clear and focused: “To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” How’s that for a cause?
The premise is simple. Create a point where books can be both picked up and dropped off to promote broadened knowledge and the love of reading. At the same time, create an attractive yard asset while broadening community by getting to know neighbors, and those passing by, through ongoing interaction.
Currently, there are over 36,000 Little Free Libraries around the world — one of them is right next door! A visit to the organization’s website, under the locator feature, reveals there are currently two in our valley, with about a dozen over in the Salt Lake City area.
The Little Free Library next door has its own Facebook page! To visit it, go to Facebook, and then do a search for “Ironwood Road Little Free Library.” You’ll see that the contents and decor are refreshed for different holidays and times of the year. Heck, you can get a free packet of cocoa right now — but I suspect that’ll go away soon as the temperatures give way to warmer days. If you’d like to visit the library in person, it’s located at 1030 Ironwood Road in Erda. They’ve done a nice job on it and I think it’ll bring a smile to your face or the faces of those little ones in your life. If that’s a bit too much of a drive, and the one located in Tooele is more convenient to you, you can stop by at 592 N. 780 East.
Perhaps it’s time for you to plant something a bit different this year. How about setting up your own Little Free Library? You can obtain a charter for about $40, and there are plentiful plans and photos both on www.littlefreelibrary.org as well as social project and idea pages like Pinterest. There’s even videos to see how other constructed their library. You can theme it according to your tastes. This could even be a good community activity to get friends and neighbors together and do a “build day.” You can build several at one time and get them placed around the valley. I’d say that would be a welcome “crop” around here.
By the way, not only are Brent and Theresa good neighbors, but Theresa makes what could arguably be the world’s best cinnamon rolls. Sizable, served warm, with a generous amount of cinnamon and sweet drizzled topping, they should be the picture, in the dictionary, beside the word “decadent!” Theresa sends over a generous serving from time to time. So, if the next time you see me, and you think I’ve put on a couple extra pounds, blame Theresa. Those rolls are just too good to go to waste, and somebody’s got to eat them. Might as well be me. I think I might saunter over next door to leave a couple of books and pick up a packet of hot chocolate mix.
Jay Cooper can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can visit his web channel at youtube.com/dirtfarmerjay for videos on gardening, shop skills, culinary arts and landscaping.