Amblin' Alameda: Little Free Libraries

Amblin' Alameda: Little Free Libraries

Morton Chalfy

Have you noticed the book exchanges popping up around Alameda? The Little Free Library movement is scarcely five years old, and new libraries are popping up all over the world. In Alameda, we've visited (and exchanged books with) at least a half dozen libraries, and more seem to be appearing every day.

The libraries are simply boxes on a post - roughly the size of an old newspaper box, but artfully handcrafted. They hold 20 or 30 books each on a rough average and have little doors to protect the books from the elements.

The libraries range from very simple affairs to elaborate representations of the home behind them to re-purposed containers clad in a house-like structure. The idea is simple - "take a book, leave a book" - and it has clearly caught on with Island residents. It has the inspirational value of setting a person on a creative project to build or acquire a suitable container, to embellish it with color and pithy sayings and to fill it with books one would like to share.

It's the sharing part that I think appeals to people - at least it's the part that appeals to me very strongly and so I extrapolate, but there it is. Perhaps some other emotion would cause a lot of people to so quickly pick up on this movement, but until further notice I'm sticking with the idea of sharing with others being the most powerful one at work here. What's very interesting to me is the process we've gone through to first become aware of these outposts of humanity and then to using them ourselves with increasing frequency.

We stumbled upon the first one while waiting for our granddaughter to leave school. The library is in front of a parklet on Eastshore at the foot of Central. We looked it over and looked over the books on offer with mild interest, and we found one or two volumes we wanted to read. Confession: We took them home with us without leaving any behind. Justification: We returned the next day with replacements. Now we rarely travel without several books in the car, ready to trade them in for others at the drop of a look of interest.

The entire experience has affirmed our feelings about the sort of people who live in Alameda: caring, sharing creative people who are inspired and excited by a chance to express feelings of solidarity with others, feelings of wishing to do something that expresses the concept of trust in each other through sharing.

There is a website where one can learn the short history of the movement and register the location of a book exchange if one wishes to build or place one near one's home: (Editor's note: The Alamedan ran an earlier story about the phenomenon, in 2013.) This is an American movement which does deserve to spread around the world.

The sharing economy is a wonderful expression of "we're all in this together," and I'm really glad that Alameda is responding to it so well and with such heartfelt emotion.


Submitted by Lucy (not verified) on Wed, Apr 22, 2015

Bike Walk Alameda has created a bike ride tour of some of the libraries. It isn't complete, because they keep popping up all over. One suggestions is to gather some books you are done with at home. As you ride the tour, leave a book and pickup a new one.