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MailTribune.com
  • For the love of reading

    Couples embrace Little Free Library movement, offering books to neighbors
  • As a youngster raised on a farm a dozen miles out of Astoria without television or telephone and often sans electricity, Dave Meyer looked forward to those days the town's bookmobile dropped by for a visit.
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  • As a youngster raised on a farm a dozen miles out of Astoria without television or telephone and often sans electricity, Dave Meyer looked forward to those days the town's bookmobile dropped by for a visit.
    Indeed, he could tell you the days between visits as he waited to pore over the treasure trove of books that brought the world to the remote family farm.
    "It wasn't until first grade that I had been given the first opportunity to read a book," recalled Meyer, 77, of Medford. "That opened up a whole new world to me."
    The retired U.S. Air Force pilot who retired as a lieutenant colonel doesn't have to wait for the bookmobile these days.
    He and Nancy, his wife of 55 years, have built a "Little Free Library" which sits sedately on a low wall in the front yard of their quiet east Medford neighborhood.
    The athenaeum is open to their neighbors to drop off books or just pick one up. There is no fee, no Dewey Decimal System, no librarian going "shhhh."
    "Books are our passion," said Nancy, 75, who was raised in Astoria where she also looked forward to bookmobile visits to her neighborhood.
    The Meyers, along with another Medford couple who have built a similar library, have joined the Little Free Library movement inspired by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wis. After his mother died, he built a miniature, one-room schoolhouse in 2009 to honor the retired teacher and lifelong book lover. He stocked it with books and invited neighbors to read them. With the help of friend Rick Brooks, a community outreach specialist in Madison, the movement has spread across the nation and into Europe and Africa.
    There are now thousands of the tiny libraries intended to inspire more reading across America.
    Each owner pays $25 to the nonprofit Little Free Library to obtain a sign and a number.
    "We want to encourage people to read," she explained. "If people read, they will want to go to our town library to get the book they want.
    "In addition to promoting reading, we want to help create a positive neighborhood spirit," she added. "When a neighborhood adopts one of these, they will take care of it and the books."
    Dave came up with the plans and built the tiny library. The door handle was created out of a piece of driftwood Nancy found on the beach.
    "Originally, it was going to be about 2 feet square," he said. "But she decided she needed another shelf so we made it bigger."
    They didn't stop with the additional shelf. They put out lights to illuminate it at night. There's a comfortable bench under a tree for those who want to read in the shade.
    "It is waterproof," he said, noting it will be available through the winter.
    Nancy seeded the attractive book cabinet with 20 books when they opened their little library 10 days ago.
    Now it is chock full of books.
    "People have been taking them as well as dropping off books," she said. "Every day now people come and bring books.
    "There is a lady who lives just around the corner who is a teacher — doing tutoring this year," she added. "She was so excited to find there were children's books here."
    They have created a children's section along with books of all shapes, sizes and subjects, fiction and nonfiction.
    On this day the books included a rich variety, including "Sick Puppy" by Carl Hiaasen, "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis, "In the Beauty of the Lilies" by John Updike, "April 1865: The month that saved America" by Jay Winik and "Those Who Love" by Irving Stone.
    "We have whatever people bring us," Nancy said.
    "You can take whatever you want," Dave said. "You can bring a book and drop it off but you don't have to."
    "Sometimes I'll see someone take a book, then come back later in the day and drop one off," she said. "I get text messages from friends that say, 'I stopped by your library while walking today and took three books. I'll bring you some.' "
    Noting their children and grandchildren are avid readers, the Meyers say they like having a little library of their own.
    "I still do a lot of reading," he said. "I love it."
    "I bought a Kindle but it isn't quite the same as feeling that book in your hand and smelling the print," she said, then added, "But I do take the Kindle when we travel overseas."
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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