You’ve seen them around, I’m sure. Little colorful boxes on sticks, crammed full of books and charm.
There are quite a few in and around Eastlake. The Little Free Libraries in this neighborhood hide in plain sight, waiting for the curious bookworm or passerby to open their doors and peek inside.
There’s no big secret, scandal, or controversy surrounding these minuscule fonts of fiction. They just are.
Let’s take a moment to recognize that, in this flowering, changing community, there are just a bunch of books lying around that we wanted to share with one another. Personally, I think that’s beautiful. It’s a sign that the sense of community some say is slowly slipping from Seattle is still there, sitting quietly with a yellowing paperback in hand.
There’s an almost inspiring simplicity to it: Walk up on a gray afternoon, grab a book that looks interesting, then cozy up back at your apartment or at the nearest coffee shop. That’s all it has to be. If you’ve got a book to share, leave it there. There are about six within a half mile radius of each other, so if it’s jammed full, that’s really no trouble. Just walk a few blocks to the next one.
Or, better yet, if you’ve got a lot of books you wish to donate, there are a few of us who take the overflow and walk them around for you. Go to Lake Union Mail and ask for Ike. I’ll take them off your hands and spread them around, no problem. I do it at least once a week anyway. It’s a quiet way to give back to my neighbors, but we all do what we can, right?
With winter weather looking to settle in, we all need something to look forward to. Those Little Free Libraries can be a source of communal warmth if we let them. The bookworm, though reclusive, is not confined to being solitary. A smile and a quick discussion about what they’ve been reading is almost always welcome, and being kind to someone can shake the ice right off that frozen heart of yours, too. The days might be frigid, but around the Libraries, you don’t have to be.
Life is incredibly complicated. Life in the city, more so. We get so caught up in the politics and problems of the world around us we forget to stop and breathe every now and then. The Little Free Libraries should be looked upon not merely as a place to leave unwanted tomes, but also as a reminder to slow down and appreciate the little things that make life bearable. They should be utilized frequently, with respect to other readers. And they should be celebrated for being one of the quirks that make Eastlake feel so friendly.
Accept that change is inevitable, but know that there are still things here to be proud of. If we focus on those things – the good, simple things – I believe it will strengthen the foundation of our community more than shared anger at city planners and real estate developers, more than vapid internet arguments, and certainly more than bemoaning the loss of businesses from decades past. The Little Free Libraries are here to stay, and they’re here to let us know there’s still kindness in Seattle. That goes a long way for me. Makes me smile every day, as a matter of fact. And I hope now, when you see one of those funny little boxes stacked full with bad mystery novels and old physics textbooks, it’ll make you smile, too.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Eastlake News hard copy Winter 2019-2020.
Sketch by Karen Berry of a home on Franklin Avenue E. with a Little Free Library in front.