In an increasingly electronic world, it seems as if the physical value of a book has nearly diminished. Electronics like iPads, smart phones, and laptops have amplified the convenience of the online world while simultaneously demoting the need for any hard copies.
Colette Grubman, a 16-year-old Mira Costa student, is hoping to reverse this trend through a concept dubbed the “Little Free Library”.
Although the Manhattan Beach Library has been spreading its love of reading with the community for more than a hundred years, it officially closed to the public on June 1 to undergo demolition as the first step in a long process of reconstruction.
The new design of the building hopes to accommodate more community members by doubling the library’s original size. To minimize the new building’s environmental impact, the county wants to achieve LEED gold-level certification as well; this will make the building more energy and water efficient.
However, the grand reopening of the library isn’t projected to be until June of 2015.
In the meantime, Grubman has managed to set up a free book exchange in the Civic Center courtyard to continue spreading the love of reading while the library is under construction.
She first became involved in the Little Free Library Program last November when her family bought one for their home.
“I noticed these little libraries in other houses around Manhattan Beach,” Grubman said, “so for my sixteenth birthday, I asked for my own. We stocked it with books from around the house and ones donated by family and friends.”
When she realized the Manhattan Beach Library wouldn’t be available to the community for a long period of time, she decided the city could use its own Little Free Library more than ever.
“I really just wanted there to be an easy access to books while the library is closed,” she said.
Grubman presented her idea to the Library Commission of Manhattan Beach at one of its board meetings in March. She was invited by Mark Leyman, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, after she emailed him with her vision.
“I was surprised by how interested the commission was in my project,” she said. “I’m still surprised by how quickly it spread.”
City Manager David Carmany also jumped on board after hearing Grubman’s idea.
“I think it all comes down to spreading the joy of literacy with the community,” Carmany said. “It’s pretty clear that this movement has legs and there are no downsides to this project; it’s just joyful.”
The first test site was put into the Civic Plaza on July 26, and it has created a domino effect since then.
“When people first see it, they don’t really know what it is,” Grubman said. “Some people thought it was a mailbox, but we’ve added labeled stickers to make it as clear as possible.”
Another community member, Will Rowe, is joining the effort as part of his Eagle Scout Project. Five to six more sites are in the works, Carmany said.
With the creative use of customized birdhouse-like book-holders and a small sign underneath them that reads “Free Books: take a book, return a book”, the purpose behind the program is simple – to connect as many people as possible through the shared love of reading.
It’s evident that the City of Manhattan Beach supports this cause wholeheartedly
“I think it’s important for my children to know what it’s like having a story read to them at bedtime; to be able to point at the pictures and fold their favorite pages,” said a local woman, wishing to remain anonymous.
With her 7- and 4-year-old sons close behind, the family returned the previous book they had borrowed before picking a new gem— “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.
Anyone interested in sponsoring or building more free libraries in the area is encouraged to visit littlefreelibrary.org for more info.