Take one, leave one

Please permit me this brief observation to accommodate a busy schedule…


It should come as no surprise to anyone that the literary crowd is a pretty civilized group as a whole. A primary piece of evidence supporting this conclusion is the existence of “take one, leave one” bookshelves. These things are everywhere, in hotels, doctor’s offices, and coffee shops, among other locales. Some are even out in the open air, accessible to all!

(While researching this piece, I stumbled upon an organization that promotes these installations. Little Free Library gives everyone a chance to create their own T1L1 system. The photo above depicts one of many sites they’ve inspired.)

Free books on the honor system. What a concept. I’ve never heard of anyone taking unfair advantage of this largesse. People really do most often leave one when they take one. At worst, they return the one they take. At best, they return more than one. How cool is that?

Of course, the aforementioned “mini-libraries” owe their existence to that bastion of American socialism, the free library system. They are a testament to the honesty and goodwill of the reading public. Anyone with a little card (no, not an Amex) can borrow books (and more recently, music, videos, and select other materials) at no cost, the only condition being that they be returned in approximately the same condition in which they started.

Can you imagine any other product being offered thus? There’s no shortage of stuff people want and could use on a temporary basis. Why isn’t there a clothing library? There are times (such as weddings and funerals) when borrowing a nice suit would be helpful. Sporting goods? How often do you need those skis? Why not borrow them on an as-needed basis from the sports library?

People will argue that literacy is such a fundamental need that free books are more than a luxury. They’re a necessity to the populace of a democratic nation. Well, couldn’t I say the same about fitness? Isn’t a healthy public important? Then where are those sports libraries when I want a set of golf clubs for a quick nine? Or why not clothes? Isn’t a clothed community better than a naked one? (Have you looked around lately? There’s an overabundance of flesh and a severe dearth of clothing. And not in a good way.)

Free vehicles, tools, art work, and furniture would all be in great demand on a temporary basis. But that will never happen, and it’s just as well. Even by suggesting such gibberish, I run the risk of some uber-capitalist overreacting and declaring libraries as inappropriate in our free market system.

Even if that were to happen, an underground (yet above ground) T1L1 movement would thrive. Readers by their very nature want to share the joy of reading. Take it from me… and leave one.