The Accidental Library
Early in the spring I and two other women at my office accidentally started a library. It was time for “spring cleaning,” that time of insanity when winter is over and summer beckons. Most of us go through the post-holiday clutter by tearing our homes apart to get rid of anything not needed and cleaning from floor to ceiling. Clothes are donated to Goodwill and anything broken is left at the curb for the trash man. But none of us could bear to trash anything as lovely as a book. The public library wouldn’t take books, so we brought them, by the bagful, to the office to share with our co-workers.
Our little library is created of castoffs. You won’t find any of the classics in this library. What you will find is “beach” reading: the sweating, heaving pirate takes the girl and girl falls in love with pirate, or “get the engines revved” tales. You’ll find mysteries, tales of horror and suspense, biographies of modern day celebrities and politicians along with the garden variety paperbacks found in the grocery store, Wal-Mart or the flea market. It is not a pretty or well-organized library. There are no Dewey Decimals on the spines of any of the books. There is no pocket in the back cover of any book to tell the borrower when the book must be returned. The magazines do not hang off wooden dowels, nor do they lie on slanted shelves in any sort of organized manner. Neither do they wear special plastic jackets to keep them clean and neat. Instead, the books reside on one end of the “catch-all” table in our break room. Every now and again, someone lines them up neatly in the lids of copy paper boxes so that anyone who wishes can paw through and decide if and what they want to read. A small cardboard tent stands nearby that reads, “Swap, borrow, keep, and read.” It has been dubbed “the library of guilty pleasure.”
The first few weeks after the library was created the books sat politely in their box top homes, not so much organized, but squished to fit in the space we could find. We three were, after all, merely cleaning out our bookshelves at home, making room for new acquisitions. It wasn’t long before a host of magazines was surreptitiously added to the mix, everything from Men’s Health to the National Enquirer. They were relegated to an old cabinet in a corner next to the most hideously green sofa ever seen, donated by some long ago employee to the break room cause.
The men who work in our office will generally go out to lunch at one of the host of restaurants within walking distance. The women, trying diets or trying to save money by bringing their lunches, eat in the break room, or (if they have their own office) at their desks.
The interest in the books started in early May when lunch buddies Trish and Stephanie could not eat together due to their work load. Trish picked up a novel and read through lunch. The next person into the room asked what she was reading. Trish pointed to the boxes of books and commented that she was glad the books were there. It was as if the proverbial ice had been broken. From that day forward our library became the happy little disaster it is right now. Even the folks who come to my training classes from other offices will borrow a book or enjoy the magazines during their breaks and lunch times.
It gives us three “founders” great pleasure to know the books are being enjoyed. What is even more wonderful is that it is not unusual to walk through the break room and hear books being discussed or exclamations over the rooms or recipes in the lifestyle magazines or the laughter over the absurd stories in the Enquirer.
The most wonderful thing is there is no gossip. That impulse seems to be satisfied by the abuse heaped on movie stars and moguls in grocery aisle rags. Instead, there is intelligent conversation about books and reading.
New books are making their way to the tiny table, as one book is swapped for another. In fact I found a book by Luanne Rice called Cloud Nine. I’d never read before. I treated myself to a cheese quesadilla at the restaurant across the street and sat enjoying lunch in the fresh air of young summer and an unexpectedly good find in our accidental library.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” Contact Anne.