Hello readers! Welcome back. I want to show you something really cool today--Little Free Libraries! I also have an odd confession about libraries, and I'd like to talk about the library as we know it.
What is a Little Free Library? It's a beautiful concept, brought to life by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks, to inspire neighborhoods to come together through reading. Physically, a Little Free Library is a weather-proof box (built uniquely, or bought from the Little Free Library project) placed in any front yard, and filled with books for people of any neighborhood to borrow, or to take-a-book-leave-a-book. The idea is to inspire literacy and interest in reading through an interesting social movement that catches peoples' attention, and can be used worldwide without physical or age or other boundaries.
I remember the first time I learned about Little free Libraries. Several years ago, a friend of mine had just moved to a new house in a new neighborhood, and one day she posted a picture on Instagram of a little white box with a window on the front, full of books, with the caption "Look what I found while out on a walk! A magical box full of books." I found it absolutely fascinating, and had to take a walk to check it out myself. I wasn't really looking for anything to read at the time, so I brought a copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to leave in the box, since I had two copies. I remember feeling giddy that such a thing existed. It was a heartwarming thought that there was a little box full of stuff to go read at your leisure, for anyone to use, any time. I have since borrowed from that box a few times for summer reading, or to leave a book that I want someone else to read.
Alright, and speaking of anyone using a Little Free Library, any time they'd like, here's my (quite opposite) embarrassing confession about libraries. You're going to laugh.
See, I have this bachelor's degree in English. I did the whole 4 years of studying and writing papers and pulling all-nighters and procrastinating on important projects. BUT... I never once used my school's physical library for anything, in 4 and a half years of term papers and research.
I only used the online resources for everything, even though some professors required us to physically go to the library for research projects. I feel you scoffing. Calling me a silly goose. Why would I do this, you ask? Well, because the thought of a library directory in a building that is 4 stories with 3 wings is incredibly intimidating. It's much bigger and more confusing than a little box with no check out counter. I didn't know how to use or find anything, and I was afraid to ask, because it seemed like something I should know my way around already. And the farther I got into college, the more afraid I was of going to the library and not knowing how to use anything in it. I didn't even know the process for checking out a book.
Luckily, my school was ahead of most with electronic resources. We had a fantastic library website and database, with entire books available to be looked at, loaned from other library databases, and electronically checked out from the calm comfort of a computer screen. The ease of a search bar doing all the work to find things, and not having to track down any books to look at them was an absolute life saver. I could check them out and take them with me anywhere, without having to find anyone to ask how to do it, without receiving a dreaded eye roll at such a dumb question, without having to find my student ID and make sure I had an account set up to take a book with me, and without having to keep track of a book to turn it in, as the electronically borrowed books would just expire and return automatically as a resource to the electronic library.
Fortunately, I have since learned a few things about my odd aversion to visiting libraries.
First, it's not so odd for someone in the millennial generation to be kind of afraid of not knowing how to use the library when we are so used to the internet as a completely user friendly and all knowing knowledge database. Here is a short paper from the perspective of a professor who was disappointed in his law students not using the school library as a research resource. So, he teamed up with his school's librarians, and together they began steps for building a better online database for their school library. The second thing that I learned recently about libraries, is that, especially in an academic setting, the library's website and database are an extension of the library, and there is no shame in using online resources over physical resources. So, if you're doing all of your library research from your library's online database like I was, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and you don't have to be ashamed!
I also learned that librarians are there to help, no matter how dumb you think your questions are. It's their job to be the steward of the large confusing labyrinth full of books. They're used to people in this day and age not knowing what to do when they walk into a library, and librarians are there because they do know what to do and how to use all of the confusing library things. Still feeling library-shy? Here is a fun Wiki How guide on how to use a public library, and the resources available in the modern public library setting; and here is a quick and hilarious list of things librarians wish you knew about using the library.
Libraries are becoming a forgotten wonderland despite their efforts to stay fun and relevant in the age of the internet. I encourage you to go to your local public library and have a look around. If not for a book, see if there are any classes or activities you'd be interested in checking out, don't be afraid to ask the librarian a question or two, or ask if they could use a volunteer; or at the very least, check out a Little Free Library near you. You could find something you never knew you were looking for.