Library Take Four 1My neighborhood read began with a photo I saw of a snow-covered book box secured to a post in St. Paul, Minnesota.

By day I WRITE4FUN, but in the evenings I READ4FUN, so the notion of sharing my love of books with my neighbors immediately appealed to me. I found ready-to-construct little libraries online, but iconoclastically decided to do my own thing.

My first two iterations – an inviting small conservatory and a two-tier tray table – were stolen within days. Both times, the books were haphazardly strewn on the ground. But like Don Quixote tilting at a windmill or Captain Ahab searching for Moby Dick, I persevered. My next foray, a makeshift library constructed from cheap dresser drawers, died after a rain; not with a bang but a whimper.

My newest bookshelf, which I painted a cheery yellow and secured to my gate, has survived to become a popular neighborhood stop. I invite passers-by to “take a book, leave a book, enjoy a book.” And they have!

At first, I raided my home library to populate the shelves, but now books magically appear: in ones and twos; in bags and boxes. Fairy tales. Romance novels. Mysteries. Adventures. Comics. Books revealing how to find your ideal mate, start a business, bake a soufflé, learn Spanish and even (thanks, strolling evangelists) ascend into heaven.

In this era in which social networks like enable neighbors to communicate without engaging in face-to-face interactions, it’s refreshing to know that my raggedy little library has brought people from all walks of life together as they walk past my house. I delight in speaking with my neighbors, often with children or dogs in tow, as they pick out or drop off a book.

I returned home recently to find a note scribbled on a napkin affixed to my gate. It read, “I took Tristan and Iseult! I can’t wait to read it. Thank you for doing this.”

If you’re ever in the hood, stop by. I’m always booked!