Some people can’t get enough of libraries, like Los Banos’ Gerry Giesel. He loves them so much, Giesel created his own “little free library” in his front yard.
Gerry was inspired by the “Little Free Library” created by a fellow in Wisconsin 2009, who set one up in front of his home. Now the movement has hundreds of little free libraries across the country.
A little free library looks like a large bird house affixed atop a post, usually adjacent to a sidewalk. Gerry’s library is a good example. It has a door with a plexiglass window and behind it about a dozen or so books. Anyone is welcome to open the door and either take a book or leave a book, all on the honor system.
Examples of other little free libraries can be found on the non-profit organization’s web site, www.littlefreelibrary.org, along with a history and explanation of the organization.
Gerry not only installed a little library in front of his home. He is encouraging many other Los Banosans to do the same. “I think I’m the second resident of Los Banos to have one,” Gerry said. “But I’d like to see many more in our town.”
Gerry has been a big fan of reading and libraries all his life, but especially now in retirement. “I love going to our local public library in Pacheco Park and checking out books,” he said. “The staff there is so helpful, and any book I need, which the library doesn’t have, Nola or Crystal will order it for me through an inter-library loan.”
But he wanted to extend the feeling and the opportunity of being able to find an interesting book to at least one other place. “People in my neighborhood,” he noted, “can come by anytime, even on a day or time the library’s closed, and find a book to read.”
Gerry said this is one way of giving back, a concept mentioned often when Gerry was a Rotarian.
Like many in Los Banos, Gerry believes reading is an essential skill. And he feels reading a printed version of a book is a significant experience. “Nowadays young people do a lot of reading on screens, and that’s fine,” he said. “But holding a book in your hands and being able to turn pages is valuable.”
Gerry, who is a member of the Los Banos Elks Lodge, has been spreading the word about little free libraries to his fellow Elks. Now Blanche Jorge, the Esteemed Leading Knight of the local lodge, believes in little free libraries as much as Gerry. She plans to have lodge members design and install a little free library in front of the Elks building (565 E St.).
“I’m just as excited as Gerry,” said Blanche. “I’ve seen other little free libraries in my travels around Merced County, and I think they’re great. We need more people of all ages, especially young people, holding books in their hands.
“Learning takes place through all our senses, including touch,” Blanche said, “and holding a book while reading it is a positive kinesthetic experience.”
Gerry pointed out that each little free library should be unique, in design and content. “There are no blueprints for standardized construction,” he said. “Each little free library should express the personality and creativity of the person who builds it. And it doesn’t cost much to build one. I used scrap wood, and my neighbor Hector Garibay donated some of his leftover shingles for the roof.”
Ideally, the little free library’s conetents should reflect the interests of its neighborhood. In one neighborhood residents might like mysteries, in another science fiction, in another children’s books,” Gerry said. “And the books can be in any language – English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and so forth.”
What each little free library needs, Gerry added, is a “steward,” someone who takes care of its contents. “In my case,” he said, “I check my little library regularly and note what books are taken and what books are left.”
Gerry and Blanche encourage anyone interested in creating a little free library to contact them (firstname.lastname@example.org or blanchej@ hoffmanelectronics.com). They would be glad to share their experience and enthusiasm.
Art Show Reminder: Geoffrey Beaumont will give a free multi-media presentation on his father’s 45 years of work as the U.S Navy’s official artist on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Los Banos Public Library (1312 S. Seventh St.).
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email email@example.com.