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Little Library Stands Out in a Big Way
The grandeur of Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, where the famous Book of Kells (dating back to around 800 C.E.) is on display, is breathtaking.
The venerable New York Public Library, similarly, is a cathedral filled with books.
For sheer volume of volumes, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., boasts 39 million books on 838 miles of bookshelves.
An impressive trio, and yet I have a theorem that the very first library a child visits will forever remain his or her favorite. Thus, the fourth library on my personal “Mount Rushmore of Libraries” visited, joining the three above, is the modest Tremont Public Library in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
Tremont’s children’s section likely did not have 838 feet of shelves. No matter, it was magical to me. The first book I vividly recall using my new library card to check out was “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Published in 1963, “Where the Wild Things Are” is now on display in the Library of Congress’s exhibit “1950 to 2000: Books That Shaped America.”
Shaping America – and especially young Americans – is a hallmark of libraries, which is why Albert Einstein once proclaimed: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”
I recently learned the location of a library that is as tiny as the Library of Congress is colossal, and yet in its own way is every bit as special.
“The Brodiea Ave. Books Free Library” has 16 total feet of bookshelves, not 838 miles; and only about 200 books, not 39 million. All the same, I can imagine – and isn’t imagination what libraries are all about? – no finer ocean view at any library.
Located on the 1400 block of Brodiea Avenue, curbside right on the winding one-way street, the Brodiea Library is basically a dining-room hutch filled with books rather than china plates.
This “hutch” belongs to nearby homeowner Glenn Egelko. He asked his friend, Larry Davis, to build it five summers ago after Glenn read a newspaper article about a “street library” offering books for free.
Glenn’s street library is 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide, with four shelves. To protect the books within, the handsome structure has a shingle roof and two side-by-side, full-length Plexiglas doors that are, in fact, repurposed 99-year-old window frames.
Accenting the beauty of Davis’s woodworking is a stone pathway, potted plants, and the Pacific Ocean far below. The main attraction, however, is the ever-changing collection of books.
“People visit day and night,” Glenn notes, the latter made easier thanks to a solar light in the hutch. “Morning walkers in the neighborhood stop by, skateboards come by, cars drive by and stop at all hours.”
The library has even become a popular spot for taking selfies, but people taking books is its true mission.
“You can take a book and keep it if you want,” Glenn explains. “Or you can bring it back after you read it. People can also leave a book. There are no rules.”
No rules and no library cards, yet returning books and donating extras seems to be the rule more than the exception. To be sure, shelf space – not the generosity of people – is what limits the library to about 200 titles at any given time.
Glenn insists he is not the head librarian, for he does not organize the books, check them out, nor check them back in.
“I started it by putting in about 12 books and it has grown organically on its own from there,” Glenn shares. “It basically takes care of itself.”
Asked what motivated him to create this lovely little library, Glenn answers: “Mostly, I wanted a way I could do something that was not about me. I just hoped people would enjoy it.”
By all measures, Glenn and his wife Elisabeth – an artists who creates free bookmarks for the library – have succeeded in a big way.
As have Cindy and Tim Hansen, whose free street library is even littler – about which we will learn more in this space next week.
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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.
Check out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …
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