Tag Archives: renegade Litttle Free Library

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.