By Trudy Cusella
The vandalism began a year after the installation of my Little Free Library. A plexiglass window was shattered with what looked like a fist.
Little Free Library is a nationwide organization that encourages individual neighborhood libraries where people can share books. My daughter began a family tradition when her husband built a library and installed it in front of their home. My son constructed one for me as a Mother’s Day gift.
I live on a parkway in South Buffalo so there is a lot of foot traffic as well as cars passing by. I sit on my porch and watch people donate, exchange and help themselves to books. I especially enjoy watching the children browse.
After the damage was inflicted, I emailed my neighborhood association to ask if they had observed any misdeeds and to request that they be vigilant. The next morning, the president of the association showed up at my door with a lovely card and a generous check to help with repairs.
Soon after my son completed the repairs, the damage was repeated. This time, he decided to build doors that no one could put their fist through without doing bodily harm. The plexiglass was guarded with thick wrought iron and held shut with magnets. For a while, things were quiet. Then, I noticed the magnets were torn off. Plastic bags filled with dog leavings appeared at the base of the library. Oddly enough, no one has ever desecrated the books. They are always left in their proper order on the shelves.
Books of all persuasions and affiliations are donated. I am tempted to remove books with extreme viewpoints, but then I remember the country in which I live, and our First Amendment and I leave them to be appreciated by like-minded people.
When I’m out front organizing and straightening the books, cars honk, people wave and pedestrians stop to visit. They often thank me for providing the library. Children’s books disappear quickly, especially around the holidays. Moms ask if I have more of a series that they are reading to their child. Good neighbors are always ready to fill the need. Sometimes so many books are donated that overcrowding is an issue. I bring books in the house to be rotated in later when space is available. The Little Free Library is a community building enterprise.
I woke up Thanksgiving morning to ultimate damage. The heavy doors were torn off their hinges; the back of the structure was sheared off and lay on the ground. The Little Free Library was no more.
I was discouraged and ready to tear down the remnants. My son, on the other hand, is taking this vandalism as a personal challenge. He works with steel and is determined to build a vandal-proof structure.
Though the library is but a shell, people continue to leave books. I find them on the bare unprotected shelves and bring them in the house before they are weather-damaged. I don’t know how to distribute them other than to donate them to the county library. My daughter has plenty of books at her station.
I loved my Little Free Library and I miss it. I especially missed it around the holidays when I am certain many of those books would have been given as gifts. Maybe next year.
Trudy Cusella, of Buffalo, is a retired psychiatric nurse, working writer and devoted grandmother.