Friday, May 16, 2014

Geurilla Gardens of Nature Books

Free books? They’ll make your day if you happen upon them as I did yesterday morning. Free books in public places can promote literacy and build community too, according to Little Free I was delighted to discover that one of their charming boxes has popped up in my neighborhood.

Peering inside, I noticed only about a dozen books—a Dan Brown novel, a classic children’s book, and other popular fiction, not my usual fare. But then I spotted Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, by Michael Pollan. I started reading Pollan with An Omnivore’s Dilemma, his best-selling examination of our tangled and troubling food industry. But before becoming the leading critic of industrialized agriculture, Pollan was known as an adept, even dazzling, gardening writer. What more delightful way could I encounter his earlier work (which one reviewer says “is to gardening what Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler is to fishing") than in a neighborhood garden’s free library?
This particular little library is next to “The Other Barn,” a facility offering a safe place to hang out for teens after school. In contrast, our actual public library seems less then welcoming to youths' sometimes-raucous presence. A police officer guards the entrance at school dismissal time, and all couches have been removed to prevent loitering. Once, as I entered the library branch, a librarian warned me in a whisper, “Don’t stay long. Schools almost out!” The Little Free Library motto is “Take a Book, Return a Book,” and I went back today and tucked in a copy of a favorite teen book from my house--Megan Whelan Turner’s riveting historical fantasy, The Thief. I’ll be checking back, too, to see if it’s taken—and what surprise replaces it.
Wouldn’t it be tremendous if Little Free Libraries welcomed people of all ages in all neighborhoods? LFLs have been created for all sorts of reasons—memorials, anniversary celebrations, recipe and seed sharing—so why not to spread the word about nature protection and even climate disruption? Wouldn’t this be a great way to pass around our extra field guides, essay collections, Rachel Carson biographies, etc? Every nature center should at least have a Little Free Library with a copy of A Sand County Almanac, free for the taking. Think of the riches that would be returned?