By Erin Jennings
No Overdue fines to worry about. No Dewey Decimal System to navigate. Just an engaging little neighborhood bookshelf where you can take (or leave) a book and be on your way. Little Free Libraries, as they are affectionately known, are springing up all over. Neighbors are repurposing doghouses and retrofitting picnic coolers into tiny lending libraries. Just like their larger cousins, these mini-libraries work on the honor system. But unlike traditional libraries, you don’t have to return a book within a certain timeframe. Instead, people are encouraged to drop off a book or two when they have extras to share.
When Penny Lamping heard about these literary jewels, she knew she had just the spot to host one in her front yard on Crystal Springs Drive. “It seemed like a very Bainbridge thing to do,” said Lamping, who has lived in the same house practically her entire life. Crystal Springs Drive, with its serene views, gets lots of foot and bicycle traffic—just the type of patron who can be sidetracked to peruse titles waiting in the Crystal Springs Tiny Library. The book selection is eclectic and constantly changing.
When her library first opened, Lamping stocked it with a half-dozen books. She is amazed at the titles that have made an appearance on the shelf since then. Proving that her little library fits a wide variety of tastes, Lamping said one of the most unique books she’s seen covered psychoanalysis. “And it’s gone!” Lamping said. Slightly larger than a birdhouse, the library was crafted by a neighbor, Hank Schmidt, from materials he had on hand. Due to our damp environment, waterproofing was key. Before the library opened for business, Schmidt set it out in a few rainstorms to make sure it passed the wet weather test.
In the coming months, more little libraries should be sprouting up across the island. In June, Donna Dahlquist installed a library near the Shepard’s Way path off of Wyatt Way. It was a neighborhood highlight but stood for only a month before it was torched in early July. But Dahlquist isn’t going to let that act of vandalism stop her. This time she plans on installing two libraries—one to replace the original, and another one specifically for children.
“It’s exciting to see this guerrilla library movement taking shape across the U.S.,” said Rebecca Judd, manager of the Bainbridge Island branch of the Kitsap Regional Library. Back at the Crystal Springs Tiny Library, Lamping shows off a notebook with comments from visitors. One anonymous passerby was moved to create poetry: There once was a little book stop, That totally made my heart pop. ‘Cause books and beaches Can clear out the far reaches Of all of the aching That’s yours for the taking, So boom! Love!
Lamping enjoys overhearing visitors browsing the inventory. Cars and bicyclists slow down to take pictures of the quaint wooden structure. “From the very beginning, it’s had a life of its own,” Lamping said. “And now it has regulars and repeat customers.”