Take a Book, Leave Another

It’s a fanciful image, I know, but I think of them as delicious mushrooms, popping up here and there now around this city, as well as elsewhere in the world. I came across a brand new one the other day as I walked with friends around the pond in our favorite nearby park, Parque Zeferino, and I was stopped in my tracks:

Here was a newly built and installed sturdy metal box with glass doors and a magnetic latch, designed to hold books, free books to share. Painted in green on the sides of the box are the words “Toma Un Libro, Deja Otro” (Take A Book, Leave Another).

My book-loving heart did a happy dance.

When I returned the next day to investigate further, I learned from three young men who work at the park (and who answered my questions all at once, in enthusiastic, rapid-fire Spanish, which I might not have fully understood) that this installation was one of five planned for this city in the next month — including one in another of my favorite parks here in San Miguel de Allende, Parque Juarez — all sponsored by the municipal government. All kinds of books, books for all ages, in any language and genre, are welcome.

More happy-heart dancing.

This, of course, is not the first such free-books-box I’ve seen here in San Miguel. It’s just the newest and the biggest surprise.

There’s another, well established, one, right here in my neighborhood, Colonia Guadalupe, across from Gil’s grocery story on Julian Carrillo:

This one, as you can see, is registered with the nonprofit organization LittleFreeLibrary.org, which was created in 2009 by two fellows from Wisconsin, USA, “to inspire readers, build community, and expand book access through a global network of volunteer-led little libraries.” Today, there are more than 100,000 Little Free Library book exchanges worldwide.

According to their website, www.littlefreelibrary.org, a Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. More than 18,020 people started a Little Free Library book-sharing box last year alone. (To learn how to start your own little library go to:  LittleFreeLibrary.org/start.)

But back to the new one in Parque Zeferino:

There was just one book inside this box when I first opened its doors, the King James Bible, so I decided to add to this mini-library’s sparse shelves. I brought a novel by Anne Tyler, Redhead by the Side of the Road; a nonfiction paperback titled Impossibly French; and a copy of my own newest book, Sweet Tarts for my Sweethearts: Stories and Recipes from a Culinary Career. The last time I checked, they were all still there:

So here are a couple of inspired ideas:

For my many author-friends here in SMA, why not bring a copy of one of your own books to one of the new Little Free Libraries that pop up in town in the coming weeks? And to my friends elsewhere in the world, why not start a Little Free Library in your own community, if one doesn’t already exist?

Let’s all do a happy dance.

20 thoughts on “Take a Book, Leave Another”

  1. I’m dancing right now!! I just acquired several children’s books that I think need to go to Parque Zeferino. Thank you for your keen observation skills. I would have missed it but only one lonely Bible. I can’t wait to see the growing collection.

  2. I share your enthusiasm for the little libraries. Alas, a teenager put one up here in Santa Clarita, CA and the city made him take it down. Do not understand. I’d love to donate books from the big stack of them that have accumulated since our public libraries aren’t taking donations during pandemic.

  3. Hurray for Little Free Libraries! I hope they are all successful! Where will children’s Spanish books come from? I hope there is a good source. I could collect them here in the US if there were a way to get them to San Miguel. Maybe someone driving from the US to MX could pack them in the trunk? If someone emerges, let me know.

  4. What an inspired idea to put a free book library in a park! So you can grab a little treasure, park your fanny under a shade tree, and wander somewhere unexpected. I love San Miguel for doing this!

    1. I do too, Kharin! I’m looking forward to seeing little kids sitting on the park’s benches — or, as you say, under a shade tree in the park — reading children’s books from this box. That would be a photo to treasure.

  5. So happy I was able to see the free book box on my last walk in Parque Z. I left a few books behind when I left SMA; I’m hoping Suzanne will add them to the little library.

  6. One of the best projects for every community…have seen them here and there, but we need many more. Especially these days when public libraries are mostly closed to access.

  7. Dear Bon,

    What a great idea! I get the feeling this book sharing is happening everywhere lately. I think it’s a wonderful way for people to read something they may not ordinarily pick up. I can’t believe the beautiful cover of your new book hasn’t tempted someone. The only reason I can think of is that maybe they don’t have blueberries in Mexico?


    1. Nope, that can’t be the reason, Paul darling. There ARE blueberries in Mexico (although they’re likely not in season right now). 🙂 I can’t wait to return to Parque Zeferino to see whether any new books have been added to the little box as a result of this post. (If the number is zero, I’ll be tempted to throw in the towel.) — xx

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