Tag Archives: LFL

Renegade Little Free Library in Flagstaff, AZ

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The Man and I were van camping in Coconino National Forest just outside Flagstaff, Arizona. It was September of 2018. We were hanging out there where it was cool before making our way to our fifth wheel in Why, AZ where it was still hot. Several days a week I drove into town to work on my blog at the public library.

To get from our campsite to the library, I took Highway 180. For part of the way on that road, I could see a sidewalk and houses on my right. One day I noticed there was a Little Free Library in front of one of the houses.

For folks who don’t know, the Little Free Library website says this about Little Free Libraries,

anyone may contribute or take books…If you take a book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside.

I love Little Free Libraries and love to visit them. I’ve encountered them in Los Gatos, CA; Mesa and Phoenix, AZ;  and Santa Fe and Taos, NM. I was excited to see one in Flagstaff too. I knew I wanted to visit this one before I left town, especially since I had a stack of books I wanted to donate.

On the day I’d decided to visit this particular Little Free Library (LFL), I had a heck of a time getting to it. The house it belonged to was the last on a dead end street, so while I could see the house from the highway, I couldn’t get to it from there. I had to go about half a mile to find an entrance into the subdivision in which the LFL was located. While I knew the general direction in which to find the LFL, I hadn’t seen a street sign telling me its particular location. I drove my big hippie van through the neighborhood and took several wrong turns down dead end streets and into cul-de-sacs before I found the right place.

Not long before my visit to Flagstaff a friend living in a city in the Midwest wanted to build a Little Free Library in front of her home, but her teenage daughter protested. The girl thought it weird that strangers would be hanging out in front of her house while browsing through the books in the LFL. My friend deferred to her daughter’s wishes, delaying her LFL plans until her kid moves into her own place in a few years. I thought of my friend and her daughter as I pulled up on the LFL. Was I a weirdo for stopping in front of the homes of strangers in the pursuit of books? Weren’t Little Free Libraries in the world to give strangers opportunities to pursue books?

I might not have given it a second thought before, but now it seemed weird to park right in front of the house which hosted the Little Free Library. I decided to park across the street and walk over.

I didn’t feel entirely like a weirdo because I had books to offer to the LFL. I might be weird for taking, but certainly my character wouldn’t be questioned since I was making a donation.

This photo shows the renegade Little Free Library I discovered in Flagstaff, AZ.

The Little Free Library was made from a metal box, probably the sort that had once held free local papers focusing on arts, culture, and entertainment. The bottom section of the box now sported a volcano scene. The volcano had been painted and objects glued on to give the scene three dimensions. The door of the box had been decorated with a map, but I can’t remember (or tell from my own photos) what part of the world it depicted. Over the map someone had written “Little Free Library” so there was no mistaking what was going on even though the LFL was a renegade, not registered with the official Little Free Library organization and lacking a charter number.

One side of the box was decorated with numbers, letters, and symbols. The other side showed a bare-branch tree and an asymmetrical butterfly. There was plenty of room on that side for more drawings to be added later.

I looked through the LFL’s offerings, even though I had plenty of books but not much space in my life at the moment. How could a bibliophile pass an offering of free books without even checking to see what was available? Maybe others could do it, but I could not.

Most of the books in the library were for young kids; I didn’t need those books, so I left them behind for someone who did. I did find a large hardback book claiming to offer money-saving household tips (As seen on TV, the cover proclaimed.) I can always use money-saving household tips, so I scooped up that book and took it with me. (Money-saving household tip #1: Don’t pay for books you can get from Little Free Libraries.)

These are the books I left in the Little Free Library.

I would have been perfectly happy even if I hadn’t gotten a book from the LFL. I am happy enough just to visit Little Free Libraries, to see how they are decorated, to appreciate the unique qualities of each one, to see them housing books that folks can come and take with no out-of-pocket expense. I’m also happy when I can share books I no longer need or want by dropping them off in a Little Free Library. Getting a book from a LFL is really just a bonus. 

I took the photos in this post.

Detail of volcano on the front of the Little Free Library

Renegade Little Free Library in Phoenix, AZ

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The last Little Free Library (LFL) Nolagirl and I visited in Phoenix on the November day of our excursion was on 5th Street. Nolagirl remembered seeing it there, so we went to its neighborhood especially to check it out.

Little Free Libraries are part of the gift economy of books. Anyone can leave a book in a Little Free Library and anyone can take a book too! Some LFLs are “official.” The Little Free Library FAQ says,

There is…[a] one-time payment of about $40 to register each Library that you build. When you register, you get a charter sign engraved with a unique charter number. Your unique charter number gives you the option to add your Library to the world map. You also get access to discounted books and a private Facebook support group

This photo shows a renegade Little Free Library in Phoenix, AZ

The LFL on 5th Street was what I call a renegade Little Free Library. It didn’t have an official sign, much less a charter number. Someone built a box, added a door and a peaked roof, then mounted it on a pole, filled with books, and gave it to the world. The words on it (“Little Free Library, “Take a book…,” and “Leave a book…”) were painted by hand, and its yellow paint was peeling, but this was just as much a labor of love as a registered LFL that shows up on the organization’s official map.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally appreciate registered Little Free Libraries too. I appreciate what the Little Free Library organization does to help get more LFLs out in the world. I appreciate the support the Little Free Library organization gives to LFL stewards. But I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit right here that there’s a special place in my heart for renegade Little Free Libraries. I so appreciate these DIY projects that don’t cost more than materials and the time it takes a person to put them together, these manifestations of gift economy erected so neighbors have access to free reading material.

These are the books that were in the renegade Little Free Library.

Most of the LFLs I’ve visited have been registered and have charter numbers, but there are definitely other renegades in the world. I bet many towns have official LFLS and renegades too.

Honestly, if I were going to build a Little Free Library and keep it stocked (in other words, be a LFL steward), I would go the DIY, renegade route. That’s just the way I am. I definitely have love for the people who do LFLs the official way, but I’ve got a special love for the LFL renegades.

(As for why I don’t build a LFL and be its steward, I live in a very rural area. There is only one homestead on the road past our house, so not many people would see my Little Free Library if I had one in front of my place. Also, there’s a Little Free Library only a few miles from my house, just past where the dirt road hits the pavement. It makes a lot more sense to offer the books and magazines I don’t need any more to that LFL and others around town.) 

I took the photos in this post.

Heritage Square and a Little Free Library (Flagstaff, AZ)

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Brown public land sign saying "All Campfires Prohibited" and "Camping Permitted Beyond Here."
Camping on public lands outside Flagstaff, AZ

The public land around Flagstaff, AZ has offered me and The Man (and Jerico the dog) places to stop over (for a night or a week or even two weeks) on our way to new adventures. In April of 2017, we left Ajo, AZ and spent a night outside of Flagstaff on our way to Taos, NM. Later that year in late June we spent a few days and nights near Flagstaff on our way to jobs in the mountains of California. In April of 2018 we again found ourselves in Flagstaff area for a couple of weeks before we went to our Cali jobs. We stayed until the prospect of an early May snowstorm sent us packing. We found ourselves in the area again in late September of 2018 when our jobs in the California mountains ended. We hung out near Flagstaff until the temperature dropped and it was cool enough go back to our fifth wheel in Why, AZ.

During one of our 2018 stays, The Man decided he wanted to try to sell some of the pendants he’d made in Heritage Square. According to the Heritage Square Trust website,

We arrived fairly early on a Saturday morning and stopped the van close enough to drop off a table as well as The Man’s jewelry and jewelry-making supplies. Then The Man parked the van farther away where we wouldn’t get a ticket while I stood guard over his belongings. After setting up his table and arranging his pendants, The Man began working on a new piece. I wandered around Heritage Square taking photos.

Sculpture of a reclining life size mountain lion painted bright colors
“Asset #15 – Positive Peer Influence” Apparently that’s how big a mountain lion really is.

There’s a cool statue of a colorful cat in Heritage Square called Asset #15. According to the Encircle Photos website, it is part of the PAWS project.

This is one of the eventual 40, life-size painted mountain lions found around Flagstaff…The PAWS project is sponsored by the Coconino Coalition for Children and Youth. Each sculpture portrays one of the developmental assets essential to raising a healthy and successful child. For example, this is “Asset #15 – Positive Peer Influence.”

Flag pole base made of stone and including rocks from the Grand Canyon.
Actual rocks from the actual Grand Canyon.

I also like the exhibit of the Grand Canyon strata. It’s a nice display of information about the natural wonder only 81 miles away. According to the aforementioned Heritage Square Trust website,

The base of the flag pole contains actual rocks from the Grand Canyon placed carefully to reflect the geologic strata of the Canyon, with Vishnu schist on the bottom and Kaibab limestone on the top.

My favorite part of Heritage Square was the Little Free Library (LFL) I was pleasantly surprised to find there. Little Free Libraries are grassroots gift economy projects. LFLS are places where people can leave books they don’t want; anyone is allowed to take one or more books from the libraries. According to the Little Free Library organization,

A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

This is the Little Free Library I encountered in Heritage Square.

I thought this was a registered Little Free Library with a charter number, but after looking at the photos I took of it, I see that it is a renegade LFL! I do love me a renegade! The LFL is a project of Oasis Flagstaff and the Downtown Business Alliance. It goes to show that a Little Free Library doesn’t have to be “official” to be built well and look nice.

 I appreciate its sturdy construction, which surely makes it less attractive to thieves and vandals.

Let me say here, anyone who steals or vandalizes a Little Free Library has problems and needs prayers. According to the Little Free Library FAQs,

Small incidents of vandalism are common. Things like having a guest book stolen or a few books damaged are going to happen at one point or another. Bigger problems, like having all of your books “stolen” or your entire Library damaged, are much less common. In our annual survey of Little Free Library stewards, more than 80% of stewards reported never dealing with significant vandalism.

This Little Free Library had plenty of books to offer.

 I didn’t take any books from the LFL that day or leave any behind either, but I paid another visit to it before we left town. I dropped off one book (The Unincorporated Man) and took one to replace it (a historical romance set in Chicago during World War II, the title of which I cannot remember).

I love visiting Little Free Libraries, even if I don’t take or leave books. I’ve visited LFLs in Los Gatos, CA; Phoenix and Mesa, AZ; Santa Fe, NM; and Taos County, NM. The LFL in Heritage Square was my first (but not my last) in Flagstaff. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see it.

Intricate wire wrapped pendant with blues stones.
The Man made this pendant. He gave it to me for my birthday.

As for The Man’s jewelry sales, it was a bust. He didn’t sell a single thing. Hardly any people walked through the square, and the ones who did didn’t even stop to look. Maybe we were too early. The last time we’d gone there and found traveling kids making jewelry, playing drums and guitars, and generally hanging out, it had been later in the day.

There’s no shade in Heritage Square, and we hadn’t brought an umbrella or an awning. By noon the sun was beating down, and we were quite hot, so we packed up and drove a few miles back to the woods.

I took the photos in this post.

Helen’s Little Lending Library in Phoenix, AZ

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I was in Phoenix visiting Nolagirl in November 2017. She knows I love Little Free Libraries, so she suggested we visit the ones we could find in town. I thought it sounded like a fun excursion, so I readily agreed.  I’d visited Little Free Libraries in Los Gatos, CA , Mesa, AZ, and Santa Fe and Taos, NM and was really excited to see more of these awesome manifestations of gift economy.

For folks who don’t know, the Little Free Library website says

A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

The first Little Free Library (LFL) we visited that day was on 28th Street. Nolagirl said she passed it all the time.

A wooden box on a pole is designed to look like a small house with a peaked roof. The box is painted a deep blue and has lavender trim.
I love the color scheme of Helen’s Little Free Lending Library.

When we approached the LFL on 28th Street, the first thing I noticed was the great color scheme. I love the dark blue main color, especially with the lavender accents. I also like the four little windows that let you look into the library and the door that swings open to offer access to the books.

The next thing I noticed about this LFL is that it is “official.” There is a charter number (44511) on the left hand side of the sign that comes from the Little Free Library organization. Having a charter number means this LFL is registered with the Little Free Library organization and should pop up on the organization’s internet map of LFL locations. The LFL organizations says other benefits of registering a Little Free Library include

receiving a steward’s packet of tips and advice,…access to a private Facebook support group, and more.

Before I started writing this post, I had another look at the photos I took of this library. When I looked at the photos, I realized this LFL has its own name. It’s not just some generic Little Free Library. It’s “Helen’s Little Lending Library.” This realization leads me to ask many questions. Who is Helen? Yes, she’s probably the library steward, the person who maintains this LFL, but who is she really? Why did she decide to start a LFL? What’s her favorite part of having one? Also, how does a Little Free Library get its very own unique name? Does it cost extra to name your LFL?

The door to the Little Free Library is open, and there are two rows of trade paperback books available.
These were the books offered the day I visited Helen’s Little Free Lending Library.

There were several books to choose from in Helen’s Little Lending Library, but nothing I really wanted to read, so I left them all behind. I also left behind a couple of books I had to donate. I felt good about being a contributor. After all, we can’t expect Helen to do all the work to keep this Little Free Library going. I was glad to help.

I took the photos in this post.