When we ‘opened’ the little curbside library and seed exchange in April, I had no idea how wildly popular it would be. New books come in and out of the library every day now. Some days there are 20 new books on the shelves. Some days there are boxes of books on the stoop. People leave delightful little notes of thanks, while others wave us down in the garden to tell us how happy they are to stop by the library regularly in search of interesting new reads.
Children come with their parents and nannies. Young professionals stop by on their walk to the train station. Older adults and their caregivers visit from the care home across the street. Churchgoers from the variety of neighborhood churches and the meditation center stop by. Partygoers from the rented hall also across the street check the library out. High school students leave notes on the torn edge of a Scantron, or write poems on post-its.
The seed exchange, too, sees turnover. There are donated seed packets and baby food jars of seeds with accompanying write-ups on planting and care instructions. There are baggies of bulbs. Occasionally, some kind and tidy souls take it upon themselves to organize the books or seeds.
It turns out that opening a community book and seed exchange in your front yard makes a lot of people suddenly assume that you’re a good human being. We live in a neighborhood with lots of foot traffic, but we have never before been approached by so many friendly folks.
At the end of a hard day, peeking in at the new books and friendly notes makes me so very happy. Likewise, seeing how respectful our neighbors and broader community have been is a small step toward restoring and bolstering my faith in basic human goodness. To date, there hasn’t been a single incident of vandalism. No one has so much as left the cabinet door open.
In fact, people are so conscientious abut bringing books back–and dropping off lots of new ones–that there’s rather a ridiculous degree of overflow. I’ve had to devote an entire indoor bookshelf to housing overflow books waiting for their turn outside. And though I add as many new books to the library as I can cram inside, the indoor bookshelf gets more and more crowded every week.
Learning our anonymous neighbors’ taste in reading is also a delight. Who knew there was such diversity in taste? Who knew that we are surrounded by so many readers, and so many readers of real, paper books?
I have to think that we live in a particularly prime spot for a little library and seed exchange because of all the foot traffic. I also think that the slightly larger size of our cabinet has been helpful for offering space for a wider variety of books at a single time. All that said, I would recommend curbside libraries and or seed exchanges to anyone, regardless of your neighborhood, or the size of the box you choose to put out.
Watching the daily turnover and catching glimpses of passersby with their heads deep in the cabinet has quickly become one of the highlights of my daily life and makes me feel closer and more connected with my community. Here’s to the next four months!