Libraries around the world have been making a comeback. Well, actually, they never really left in spite of preditions that the rise of computers, television, audio books, the world wide web and such would make them obsolete in the not too distant future. Instead Libraries have found ways to not only to remain relavent but to appeal to a larger audiance by increasing the number of services they provide. Libraries today are so much more than just a repository for books and research material. They are community hubs where people can meet to discuss issues that are important to them on both local and national levels. They provide free access to computers and printers. They lend books on tape, DVDs and even games. They foster literacy and provide safe haven for kids who otherwise would have to return to an empty house after school. Public libraries are more relevent than ever as they continue to adust their missions as the needs and wants of the community change.
It is apparently true even for our Little Free Library here at the lake. We started noticing these little libraries in recent years as we traveled around the country. Most of them were small wooden boxes, perhaps just a single shelf or two, one to two feet in length with a transparent door and mounted on a pole in front of a home or small business. Because of their small size they often only held a dozen or so books. Not much of a selection to entice someone to stop and browse for long. Nonetheless, I thought that our relatively remote location could be well served by adding one of these libraries next to our mailbox where our neighbors could easily see it as they drove by. But I wanted a bigger library, one that would give our neighbors a reason to stop and discover something to pique their interest. So my husband set to work in the basement to build a four shelf, double-door library that could hold a hundred books or more. That was six years ago. Initially it was stocked with books we had read and enjoyed, children’s books from when our two were little, and some that friends donated when they caught wind of our project. Now the inventory is in constant flux as folks (mostly) follow the Little Free Library tradition of “take a book, leave a book”.
Recently we have become aware of some new purposes for our library that we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. This spring, we noticed a young teenage girl and her father lingering about the library without seeming to have much interest in the books inside. Turns out, our library had become a Pokemon Go destination. I won’t pretend to know much about the game, but I find it interesting that someone chose our little free library for that unintended purpose. More recently, my husband watched as someone proceeded to pull out each book one by one, riffle through the pages quickly and then place them each back on the shelf. She finally lingered with one for an extended period of time before also placing it back on the shelf and walking away. After she left, Don was curious and went out to investigate. He found the one that had caught her interest. It was an old hardback Nancy Drew Mystery. When he opened the cover, he discovered that it had been hollowed out and a couple of small handmade rubber stamps were contained in the hole. A bit of on-line research led us to realize that “The Clue Of The Dancing Pupet” was being used as a conduit for another game known as letterboxing a sort of a treasure hunt like geoteching. So just as public libraries are finding way to reinvent themselves so too is our little free library. And that’s just fine with us.