About two weeks ago, I noticed something pleasantly unusual while I was out for a run. Tucked away in a corner of a subdivision was what initially appeared to me from a distance as an unusually large bird stand, pictured here.
As I approached it, I suddenly realized this had nothing to do with birds, and everything to do with books. Through the small window pane, I saw a collection of books just sitting outside in this enclosed stand, right at the edge of someone’s front yard, nicely positioned towards the sidewalk.
Standing right in front of the stand, I obliquely noticed something shining from the side of the box. Shifting my weight, I was able to read a seal of originality.
Centering my weight back onto both legs, I then looked down and noticed not only a web page, but what appeared to be this stand’s only rule.
Next, I looked back up and to the right, where I saw the latch that presumably opened the stand.
Having satisfied my curiosity, I left the stand and finished my run. Later, I returned to the stand with a copy of Andrew Napolitano’s Constitutional Chaos.
Before leaving Napolitano’s book in the stand, I decided to rummage around the selection to see if there was anything I wanted to take out.
Once I had made a choice, I straightened out the books as best as I could, and left Napolitano’s book behind.
I chose to take out a Nancy Drew comic book, which I thought was more than a fair exchange.
So, what is this stand all about?
Little Free Library (LFL) originally began as Todd Bol’s tribute to his mother, who was a former school teacher and a serious bibliophile. Taken from a version on the idea of a Carnegie library, LFLs are free market competitors to the government-run public library model. Based upon the concept of a gift economy, LFLs only rule is “take a book, leave a book.” As a plus, LFL users possess the ability to be much more anonymous than Freecycle or even Craigslist, because they are bypassing the need to leave behind any sort of digital footprint (besides the fact they are also able to completely bypass the use of any library cards whose borrowing records are subject to inspection because of § 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which is also known as the “library records provision”).
How are LFLs economically viable? Instead of collecting books by way of government, LFLs are established through voluntarily donated books. If anything, LFLs could be considered as a type of free store, much like what The Diggers did back during the late 1960s in San Francisco. Although some might retort than an LFL, or free stores in general, are simply the tragedy of the commons in action, I think it would be more accurate to say that LFLs are a pragmatic application of mutualism, which is foundationally based upon the labor theory of value.
Granted, I think no one would consider it desirable for LFLs to be located in areas where the books could simply be taken by a duplicitous individual and then resold to a book buyer such as Half-Price Books. Then again, why would such a thief take such a risk to grossly violate the LFL’s only rule to maybe turn of profit of much less than $20? Also, what if one or more employees at HPB knew about their local LFLs and recognized the collection of titles, because they themselves use LFLs regularly? If anyone wants to play the “what if” game, you must also be fair and play the other side of it too, just to demonstrate its silliness for all to witness. Truth be told, there has never been either an LFL or any free store that has had their entire inventory simultaneously liquidated and resold by thieves. I say that because there are no articles, books, or videos made that have documented such incidences, to my knowledge.
Should you decide that putting together an LFL would be a good idea in your neck of the woods, I would suggest you save yourself some Federal Reserve Notes by building your own LFL. The pre-built LFL stands range anywhere from $200 – $800, and the custom made ones are ~ $1,000. Fortunately, the official LFL website has a webpage dedicated to how you can build your own LFL from scrounged materials. If you don’t have an appreciation for frugally enjoying your liberty, then you have no business putting together a local LFL, much less engaging in any serious pushback of corporate consumerism or the copyright monopoly.