in the pile beside your bed? Do you walk past bookshops only when they are closed for fear of succumbing to a book-buying frenzy?
One more question about your book habit
Do you say “What? This old thing? It’s been on the bookshelf for years,” when your fisherman (ie partner in homemaking) asks if a book is new?
I answer yes to three of those questions – it would be silly to walk past a bookshop when it’s closed. But, if you, like me have a big hungry appetite for books in hard copy, street libraries are a blessing and a curse.
There are three free street libraries in walking distance of my house. My walk to work doesn’t take me past any of them directly, but a detour only adds a minute or two and I have a big back pack. You never know when your going to find that book you’ve been wanting to read for ages, or even better, that book you’ve never heard of, but the blurb is so compelling you have to add it to the pile.
And, it’s such a comfort to know that if I need a new book at 2 am, I can pull on my dressing gown and ugg boots, grab a torch, head five minutes down the road and pick one up. I haven’t had to do that yet, but it’s the thought that counts.
The Tiny Free Liverpool Library was the first street library I found. It’s an ugly metal box covered in unsightly strips of packing tape. I’ve since found out that the directions for using the library were written on the tape, but long washed off. There were no hints as to the contents. I was thinking it might be for telco or power services, full of neatly organised wires. That’s what made the discovery so thrilling. It was full to the brim of books and I was hooked.
The Liverpool Library also has its own Facebook page that covers not just the street library, but book news, health and local political issues.
Curating an oversupply – you may take without giving
There’s a sign up on a street library a ten minute walk from me where the “librarian” has told people to feel free to take and not give. She’s overstocked and had to take books to the local tip shop. I wonder how she does her weeding. Which books stay and which books go? What biases and judgements come into it. Is it that the slow movers get turfed or is it based on genre. There are a lot of crime novels in there. Does that reflect the librarian’s preference or the area’s?
When I leave a book it’s a pleasure to check if they are taken. My fastest mover was the Time-Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I left it in the Liverpool Street Library and it was gone a couple of days later.
I want my own street library. It would be fun to be the dealer on my street, curating the contents. All books welcome, but I would not allow coffee stained, weather beaten, yachting magazines from the 90’s or any magazines from the nineties.
Sadly, my street is not well travelled and the side I live on doesn’t have a pavement for people to safely loiter. I’ll just have to feed my habit from the other little libraries in my neighbourhood.
What about you? Do you use them? If you had your own what books would you allow or discard?