Passers-by check out woman's 'Little Free Library'

Book exchange in front yard of Lewis & Clark Woods neighborhood earns Vancouver Sparkles award

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

 

The sign says "Take a Book, Return a Book."

The truth is, Carla Schreiber's check-out policy is more lenient than that.

"It says return a book, but I don't really want them back," she said. "If there's a book that somebody likes, I don't need it."

In Schreiber's front yard is a Little Free Library — a book exchange inviting anyone to grab a book, bring it back or add something new. Schreiber's library, a hand-built, weatherproof bookcase that holds three shelves, is believed to be one of the first of its kind in Vancouver. The city honored Schreiber and her husband Bob Whitt with a "Vancouver Sparkles" award earlier this year for their efforts.

This isn't the first time Schreiber's east Vancouver home has been a destination for others in the Lewis & Clark Woods neighborhood. A lush garden drew visitors for years, she said. But as she found less time for gardening, Schreiber looked for a new way to reach out to neighbors. Her daughter, who lives in Portland, suggested the book exchange idea, which she had seen elsewhere.

Schreiber loved it.

Using an antique window she had lying around the house, Schreiber had her brother-in-law build the library before installing it in the front yard last spring. She eventually registered it through Little Free Library, the organization that promotes the libraries worldwide.

The trend has taken off in recent years — Little Free Library has registered thousands of similar book exchanges across the globe. (Schreiber's is No. 4,991).

Schreiber's library, on Southeast 134th Avenue, quickly gained traction. It wasn't long before books started coming and going, and strangers started knocking on the front door. Even passing utility trucks and cable workers stopped by to ask if they, too, could peruse the selection, she said.

On a recent afternoon, the miniature library included a wide range of titles. Many came from familiar authors — Tom Clancy, Dave Barry, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook and John Grisham among them.

"It's just a hodgepodge," Schreiber said. "It's anything goes."

As Schreiber browsed the shelves, she noticed several books she didn't recognize. Then she found a commodity that likely wouldn't last long: four books from the popular "Twilight" vampire series.

"That's wonderful," Schreiber said. "I don't know who brought them."

Schreiber has noticed some trends at her own library. Children's books tend to go the fastest, she said. Hardbacks aren't as sought after as paperbacks. Mysteries are popular; histories and biographies are not.

Besides books that visitors supply, much of Schreiber's inventory comes from free book giveaways and garage sales. If a title sits on the shelf too long, she'll rotate it out in favor of something else, she said.

It was Kelly Bolan who nominated the Little Free Library for a Vancouver Sparkles award. Bolan, who chairs the Lewis & Clark Woods Neighborhood Association, said the honor brings welcome recognition to a relatively new neighborhood.

"She's a great ambassador for our Lewis & Clark Woods," Bolan said. "But it's really kind of recognizing our neighborhood, which is pretty neat."

The award is a first for the neighborhood, Bolan said. Lewis & Clark Woods, between the Wildwood and Bella Vista neighborhoods, officially organized in 2010.

The library benefits more than just visitors. Schreiber said she's enjoyed some of the books that appeared on her shelves this year.

Said Whitt, her husband: "It gives me something to read. I'm never without something to read."