Mom’s Day Gift is Free Library

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

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This Mother’s Day Gift is for Kids

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” Shakespeare wrote in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and these words seem apropos when describing the curbside street library on the 2700 block of Preble Avenue in midtown Ventura.

Though it is but little, it is fiercely wonderful!

Indeed, “The Little Free Library” (charter #35222) lives up to its name: it is a mere 21 inches wide by 24 inches tall, with only two shelves. Also, its books are free.

That’s right, people are can take – and keep – a book. No library card is required. Patrons can also return a borrowed book or leave a donated book.1TimCindy

The library belongs to Tim and Cindy Hansen. More accurately, it is Cindy’s – she requested it for Mother’s Day two years past.

Tim and the couple’s adult sons Bernie and Franklin, made Cindy’s wish a reality. Perched atop a waist-high post, the “Prairie Two-Story” model they selected from littlefreelibrary.org looks like an elegant birdhouse with a picture window as a front door.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing access to books for readers of all ages. Annually, Little Free Libraries foster the sharing of millions of books worldwide. In the Hansen’s neighborhood alone, there are two more free street libraries within walking distance.

The bottom shelf of the Hansen’s library is devoted to children’s books, and for good reason: “It’s lower and easier for the kids to reach,” Cindy notes.

Adding to the kid-friendliness are two curbside reading chairs.

Meanwhile, Tim enjoys his own nearby watching chair.

“It is a joy to sit on my porch and watch the birds all flutter away as a child comes running up to look for a new book,” Tim says, his voice filled with flight.

Wearing a navy-blue knit watchman’s cap, even on a warm afternoon, combined with his shrub-thick and long gray beard, Tim comes into focus like a Hemingway character of the sea. Cindy, meanwhile, constantly wears a smile that shines like a lighthouse.

Both have an oceanic-deep love for books.

As a child, Cindy says, the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder “opened the world of reading for me.” She has spent her adult life opening up this same world for youth as an educational therapist and school librarian.

“I love to find that one book that lights a kid’s world on fire,” Cindy shares. This included her two sons who, she notes with a laugh, “grew up hearing me tell them to go read a book, not watch TV.”

Visiting Cindy and Tim, it quickly becomes clear that even though their street library has a top shelf of titles for adults among its roughly 50 books, their real focus is young readers. For example, Cindy routinely buys children’s books to ensure the lower shelf remains full.

“During summer, when school was out, the kids’ books really disappeared,” Cindy says, happily.

She adds, also happily: “When I’m gardening here out front, I love to see kids walk by or hop out of a car and get a book. It’s become part of the neighborhood.”

What difference can a mere few dozen books make? I am reminded of the beachcomber tossing a starfish back into the ocean, while hundreds more remained stranded on the sand after a storm, and telling a naysayer: “To this one, I’m making all the difference in the world.”

So it is with this little library, as a journal kept alongside reveals.

“I took a book, I drop a book in the night. Be back, Conrad” reads one entry.

Another: “Thankful to have such thoughtful neighbors. Reading opens our hearts and minds to a world of imagination. I’ll be back. (drawn heart)”

One more: “Thank you for having books. I enjoy it & really appreciate it.”

And, lastly, my favorite, printed in the hand of a young child: “thank you fore this little free labrary this will rilly help : ) Adeline”

I imagine this may be the first library little Adeline has ever visited. I also imagine it will forever remain her favorite.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck 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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Little Library Stands Out in Big Way

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

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.”

“The Brodiea Ave. Books Free Library” is little and lovely!

“The Brodiea Ave. Books Free Library” is little and lovely!

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.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck 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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Catherdrals of Curiosity

STRAW_CoverWoody’s highly anticipated new book “STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” is NOW available! Order your signed copy HERE! 

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Libraries: Cathedrals of Curiosity

Nearly a half-century has passed, yet the memory remains vivid and magical. My fellow first-graders in Miss James’ class went on a field trip to the Center of Science and Industry in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

Before we saw the erected dinosaur skeletons and caveman displays and moving constellations inside the planetarium, we were greeted in the cathedral-like entry foyer by a gargantuan pendulum that seemed to hang down from the heavens so high overhead was its anchor pivot.

The bowling ball-sized “massive bob” swung to and fro in slow motion while on the floor around the circumference of its path were wooden pegs. With each swing, the point at the end of silver bob inched closer and closer to the next upright peg in line until the margin it missed by was razor thin. Then, finally, another miniature bowling pin would topple. It was mesmerizing.1librarypic

Another cathedral, similarly so quiet you could have heard a wooden peg drop on its tiled floors, made a lasting impression on me that same year when my mom took me to the Upper Arlington Public Library to get me my very own library card.

Inside this magical place I also could learn about T-Rex, Neanderthals and the Big Digger – and so much more. I even remember the first book I checked out: “Where the Wild Things Are.” This was a case where judging a book by its cover turned out wonderfully.

My enchanted experience is nearly universal. Indeed, it is rare to meet an adult who doesn’t fondly recall getting their library card as a child.

“I discovered me in the library,” the great author Ray Bradbury said. “I went to find me in the library.”

And this from the poet Maya Angelou: “I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK. It really helped me as a child, and that never left me.”

Inventing the public library, in 1731, might have been Benjamin Franklin’s greatest act of genius. The Ventura County Library system is quite venerable itself, proudly celebrating its 100th anniversary this week.

Much has changed since 1916 – even since 2006. Card catalogues are now digitalized; e-books, movies and music are available at our libraries; free WiFi and computer access are also offered.

Sadly, even tragically, too many people see libraries as outdated in this Google era and a waste of taxpayer money. These naysayers are as wrong as a Social Sciences title, which belongs in the Dewey Decimal System’s 300 section, being shelved in the 500s for Science.1libraryquote

Here is what my dear friend, and favorite librarian, Allyson would like you to know:

“In the 21st Century, we’re not your Grandma’s librarian! Librarians have always been the ‘original search engine,’ but in this age of technology librarians are needed more than ever.

“In the 21st century, people are faced with an ocean of information, in an explosion of formats from a huge variety of authors, with a wide range of credibility. We need librarians more than ever to help us learn the skills to navigate this ocean.

“In an age of widening income inequality, libraries remain dedicated to the radical proposition that everyone has a right to access humanity’s knowledge, and the right to read for pleasure.

“In an era where everything from job and college applications to car buying and banking is done online, libraries provide not only free internet access but guidance, insuring that information does not become the domain of the few and the wealthy.

“Libraries are centers for all kinds of events and exchanges of ideas,” Allyson continues passionately. “They are the heart of the community. And the only passport required to enter is curiosity.”

Me again. Curiosity, and a library card, will take you anywhere and everywhere. And while the pendulum may swing towards technology, it always swings back to print books and human librarians.

In truth, I need not have told you Allyson is my friend so long as I mentioned she is a librarian. From Benjamin Franklin’s time to today, every librarian is a friend to all who enter these cathedrals of curiosity.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my new memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”