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May 27, 2022



There is a "little library" in the municipal park where I lunch before my more or less weekly helicopter lessons. I try to get the most out of these across-four-counties drives. I eat, then walk to the restroom, on the way pausing to look through the glass. The contents do change a lot. A bare plurality of the books are what may be called teen fiction. Some old National Geographics; some thrillers with some thrill still in them; maybe some Bible stories; certainly nothing looks unloved or badly in need of pensioning-off. Once, I took out a slim textbook on art history, and I read it and learned a lot from it, and returned it the following week. Since then, I haven't seen it. Nor have I seen my own one contribution, which was my deceased aunt's copy of Villette. It had on its cover an old oil painting of a young girl (sorry I didn't retain enough from that textbook to describe this art any better), and I expect some other young girl was enchanted. By the picture, not the prose: I myself found Charlotte Brontë hard sledding. Federal aviation regulations are more fluently composed.

I have in my town seen a few of these little libraries. None has ever displayed anything grumpy or pre-emptively censorial. (Also, none has attracted birds of any sort, which is funny now that I think about it.) One did offer masks as well as books. Maybe sanitizer too, since you had to have touched the knob to open the glass door. That's been the extent of do-gooderism. I find the installations cheerful. But no, I'm not putting one on my front lawn.


I live in a large college catchment area, so I suppose I think the standard of free libraries ought to be higher; although it does explain the frequent availability of Molecular Biology textbooks and The Idiot's Guide To Skateboarding.
I don't think I've ever attempted scaling Charlotte Brontë (kudos if you finished), although I did enjoy reading Emily's famous novel when I was in my late teens.

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