Free libraries are all the rage – why don’t we have one here?
As council libraries close across the country, and Amazon, Google and Project Gutenberg* collectively conspire to remove the hard copy book from our lives, it is always a delight to find something which bucks the trend.
There are a few exceptions to this trend. The ersatz books, the arty books, the coming of the print-on-demand local literary history book… and of course the various book swops and free libraries… Corstorphine has its own book swop group on Facebook – see the links below. There are others, but they come and go.
Council libraries are free (as is the National Library), but they are paid for out of taxes and liable to closure by the whims of (local) government.
In an earlier post, I discussed the matter of introducing a small theatre into Scotland, here perhaps is another idea we could use to improve our area.
Free libraries in Edinburgh
Most of the free libraries I know of in Edinburgh, are in a small section just to the north of the New Town. One is on Scotland Street, another is near the Stockbridge Colonies, and another is in the Botanic Gardens. All three of these appear to be from the Little Free Library, a charity run in the States. However, the price range seems to be steep, running into hundreds of dollars. But as someone wryly pointed out to me when I mentioned this to them, “Any decent jyner cud knock one o thaim up.”
According to Edinburgh Spolight, there is a fourth, in Starbank Park in Trinity. It’s not a part of town that I visit very often, so I haven’t had a look at it.
Today, I found yet another, on Cobden Terrace colonies, one of the side streets off Haymarket. This one was “upcycled” from an old piece of furniture. This is perhaps the cheaper option. I am not sure if it’s an appropriate bit of furniture for the job but it is nicely painted up and it’s the thought that counts, right?
There are probably others out there, and certainly a few shelves of books for swopping in various shops, cafes etc. In many parts of Scotland, such as Athelstaneford in East Lothian, you can see old red phone boxes getting used.
The upside is that a lot of free reading material becomes available, and if you’re having a clear-out, they are a place you can put some of your unwanted/used books. They are a place where hopefully they shan’t be destroyed – I know from experience that charity shops dump a lot of their donations if they can’t sell them. If people knew just how much I think they might think twice about donating.
- The writer may not get money but you can enjoy books you might not buy.
The downsides are as follows:
- Potential for vandalism. You have to place such libraries away from would-be neds and trouble. A residential side street works better than a thoroughfare.
- Some people take books out and do not give back. This is especially the case with the free library at the Botanics, where many of the people taking books out are tourists, who remove books and never give one back.
- Monoculture – you can end up with books of one variety, often “chick-lit” and Aga Saga, but also thrillers and murder mystery.
There is also the issue of neds. In other words, you have to put the library into a spot where some eejits are not going to come and destroy them.
* Project Gutenberg is a force for good, unless you are a second hand bookseller or publisher of old books. The website is worth checking out. See links below for details.
- Corstorphine Book Swap (Facebook)
- Little Free Library
- Edinburgh’s first 24 hour Little Free Library on Edinburgh Spotlight
- Edinburgh’s Little Free Libraries on Edinburgh Spotlight