If you hadn’t seen a Little Free Library a year ago, you probably have by now.
Little Free Library is an international organization that started in 2009. The deal is – you buy a little structure, pre-made or to be assembled, to serve as a free book exchange. By the summer of 2016, there were 40,000 official Little Free Libraries around the world. The organization’s map of Berkeley shows 34, but there are almost certainly more than that. Colleen Neff has led a Berkeley Path Wanderers walking tour of Little Free Libraries, and she is getting weekly reports of new installations.
Free book exchanges tap into our cultural heritage.
The now-dismantled mural at the northeast corner of Telegraph and Dwight celebrated a Free Box, the poor man’s approach to the Diggers’ Free Store. Free boxes are in our DNA.
There’s a free box still in People’s Park, And there is this one community free box. Are there more? I need a better photo of this to be sure.
And – brief digression – consider this photograph. A group trying to divert direct donations to homeless panhandlers set up this box to institutionalize the charity. But we are Berkeley! We leave our money ON TOP of the box where the homeless can take it themselves. We are Berkeley!
Back to books and free book exchanges –
Berkeley being Berkeley, we also have free book exchanges that are not officially sanctioned Little Free Libraries. The one shown above is a side-by-side example of a rogue free book exchange, one not purchased from or registered with the official Little Free Library organization.
Other Berkeley rogues include:
This Rogue at the northeast corner of Acton and Berkeley Way is a design and color replicate of its mothership house. A first such find for me.
While at 1314, let’s take a moment and admire some of the other quirk. It doesn’t quite make the grade of a major manifestation of quirk, but there is real joy in the yard and windows.
A final example of a rogue free book exchange is along Oakridge Path, behind 22 Tunnel Road, in the midst of Marion Fredman’s found-object art.
There are many communities where there are not Little Free Libraries, no free book exchanges. In Berkeley, we are gifted not only with a gaggle of official Little Free Libraries, registered and indexed and Official in All Ways, but with these rogues, did-it-themselves, we-don’t-need-no-piece-of-paper or charter or listing, unofficial exchanges. The rogues don’t have a monopoly on quirk – check these two out:
They might be “official,” but boy do they rock quirky. Still, there is something, maybe subtle, about doing it ourselves, of going unofficial with our book exchanges.
I asked my friend for his take on the rogue book exchanges. “I’m all about rogue anything. Giving and taking books – this is real. It’s good, old Berkeley, the old weird Berkeley, the disappearing Berkeley turning into the pave-paradise tear-down-Holy-Hill Berkeley.” Okay, there’s a wistful/righteous sentiment – but about the post in general?