27 March 2010

Submitted name change: "Casual Library"

I saw one of those leave-one, take-one bookshelves today in a place where it made perfect sense: at the end of a hallway in the English department at Barnard College here in New York. Who has more books lying around than English majors and/or professors? That is some essential furniture. (I'll spare you my blurry documentation of what is basically a brown wooden shelf with a printout taped to it. And a complete audio set of INTO THIN AIR for some reason.)

I wish I had a leave-one-take-one I could study up close, being generally obsessed with how people behave around books as I am. Here are a few other places I think would benefit from these shelves:

My apartment building. When I have gotten to books people have left out (they tend to disappear in under an hour), the unwanted volumes are often of very high quality. That's how I got my copy of WRITTEN ON THE BODY (recommend!) It could sit right in front of the bricked-in fireplace.

My office. This may be the only way to figure out whether and what my coworkers read without having to ask them and risk being outed as more of a nerd than as I am already known. Maybe I can lobby for it when we move floors, a relocation that was supposed to be completed by the end of February and is now forecasted for late May. (It could be worse; rumor has it the department next to us is moving to one floor for a few months and then rejoining us on our new floor. Sorry, is this the tip line for Corporate Displacement Weekly?)

My parents' house. Wait, wait, hear me out. There are books spilling out of our house and my mom has them organized somehow -- but casually browsing through them I have no way of knowing whether she's waiting to read those books or trying to shed them. Besides, when we're all at home we tend to discombobulate each other, which I'm sure is how the "family" copy of the "Indiana Jones" trilogy DVDs "accidentally" went to college with my youngest sister.

Subway and train stations and airports. I've put this one last because I recognize that with the security risks involved, this will probably not happen. (Bomb-sniffing library dog?) But it would be convenient to have a place to yield books you finish in transit, and also pick out a new one instead of staring blankly at a magazine wall. It would also give an otherwise often sterile and deeply uncomfortable environment a shred of personality, as a bonus. Barcelona and Paris have book vending machines in the subway, but that's not the same.


Wade Garrett said...

I love the take one, leave one bookshelves almost as much as I enjoy the free books that people leave in front of their brownstones when they move out. Just last week I picked up four great books from out in front of a house on Sackett . . . now if only I had some place to put them.

Elizabeth said...


Maybe other people's book habits make more sense than mine, but for me at least, there's not terribly much correlation between books I pick up and books I actually read. If I actually want to read a book, I request it from the library and read it. If I buy a book, I pick it up in the hopes that someday I may be motivated to read it: this is even more true for free books.