Visiting Little Free Libraries in Eugene

I went to Eugene for the weekend a few weeks ago, for the first time in close to 20 years. I spent 5 years working and going to school there a long time back while at the University of Oregon, so I knew it fairly well then, but hadn’t kept up with much of anything since. Most of my time this trip was either spent with friends or just walking around. Of course a ton had changed since I was there last. Still, knowing that and seeing the changes are different things. Little Free Libraries as such, for example, weren’t around then. You’d see a small shelf of books and games for anyone at a bar or coffee shop, but not the Official Little Free Library movement there is now.  This trip, I also dropped a few books off in the LFLs I found via BookCrossing.

On the first day, a friend and I went out IMG_8161.jpgto Lane Community College to find the Art-o-mat machine.  It’s a refurbished cigarette machine from the 60s/70s/80s that now dispenses cigarette-pack sized art. This is one of three in the whole state of Oregon. The machines are stocked with all sorts of art, from poetry to ceramic or wire sculptures, glass pieces to mini-notebooks, photography to jewelry, paintings on mini canvases and lino prints and everything else that could possibly fit in a box the size of a pack of cigarettes. Everything sells for $5 each. This one was located, appropriately, in the community college’s art gallery. I love everything about Art-o-mats – I love that the cigarette machines are getting new lives, I love that they sell affordable and easily stored/displayed art for the masses, I love that Art-o-mats works with individual artists – famous and not – and art collectives such as teen programs, I love that you only get the barest bit of information from the tags on the machine – it’s a bit of gambling. I collect the pieces – I have around 30 pieces right now.  Here’s what I got this trip:  A woodland scene made from paper piecing (there’s even a cardstock easel on the back to stand it up), a painted block with a heart in a speech balloon, hand-drawn pen art with typed words on paper strips done by a teen, and a word made from photos, plus all the packaging the pieces came in/with.


Once done with the Art-o-mats, we tracked LCC 18400.jpgdown the Little Free Library right outside the community college’s preschool, #18400. It’s even got its own page on the Lane Community College website! I don’t know why it was so empty. Maybe they empty it for weekends and just have books in it when the preschoolers are at school.



The next day, I was on my own. The Little Free Library map is kind of unwieldy even on a regular-size computer, and downright useless on a smart phone. Fortunately for me, I also had access to the Little Library Locator app – really, a website – to help me find the LFLs near me as I walked. The weather was beautiful, the trees still green and super-leafy, and there was hardly any traffic as I started out on this early Saturday morning.

5083 LFL.jpgThe first one I stopped by was LFL #5083.



Not too many books in it, but I did find this gem:


It reminds me of books and materials we used to build for the preschool kids where I worked in the late 80s/early 90s at the UofO childcare centers.

10252 LFL.jpg

Next up was was LFL #10252. Again, not too many books, but a lovely little yard. I’m pretty sure this is near one of the apartments I lived in while going to school. I never did find that apartment building on this trip – it’s entirely possible it’s been torn down to build a higher density apartment building or a business.






Further down the street was LFL #10465. Such a pretty yard! Also, a well-stocked LFL! I took one book from this library.

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I met one of the neighbors as I walked. Very friendly, not my cat.jpgnot much of a talker.






LFL #16774 had a nice little note on the window


I tried to find LFL #4202 – especially because which one is missing.jpgof its low number – but it’s not there anymore. So I sat at the park across the street for a bit to log it’s absence in the Little Library Locator, enjoy the trees and fall leaves, and to decide which direction to go.

no number.jpg


To make up for it, I found a little library with no LFL designation or number. (Yes, I added it to the Little Library locator)

I passed a couple of garage sales, some nice yards, ski lift chair.jpga few more cats, and this ski lift chair mounted on someone’s porch.  I love it!

Last one for the day, LFL #21177. Easily tied with #10465 for the best stocked LFL I saw the whole trip. I 21177 LFL.jpgthink I took two books from this library.



After that, much catching up over dinner with friends, some well-deserved reading time in my motel, then back home I went. The nice thing about taking the train – I got to read the whole way home!

















Cleared out again

The Division92 Little Free Library was cleared out again. As before, no damage that I could see. But all the books are gone. English, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Spanish, adult, children’s, fiction, non-fiction, newer, used all gone.  Most of them had library or used-bookstore stickers on them, so I’m not sure they’re worth anything to someone trying to sell them. WTF?

So I’ve put out a handful more books today.

Dear Mr. Bruel

I saw this in my Facebook feed today. After checking its veracity (yep! posted on Nick Bruel’s FB page, and just today, too!), I knew I had to share it. If you are that easily offended, maybe you shouldn’t be working in a library. Or with children. Or, really, anywhere near People.

Dear Mr. Bruel,

My name is W. and I am a library aide at L. Elementary in L, OH. Your books are very popular in my library. It was brought to my attention today by a parent that your books contain symbols ( #%&*@ ) in the dialog that most people would interpret as cuss words. This parent was asked by their child what the symbols meant and the parent had no other explanation. Please tell me that this was not your intention!!! If so, I am going to have to pull your books from my shelf and that is going to make a lot of kids disappointed.


Dear W.,

Thank you for inquiring. I embrace this opportunity to clarify this longstanding misconception. I was hoping that it would be obvious from the context of the story, but the symbols ” #%&*@” clearly stand for pineapples.

Personally, I love pineapples, but I have a peculiar relationship with them. I love them, but I can no longer eat them raw because they contain bromelain, a natural meat tenderizer to which I am unusually sensitive. If I eat pineapple, my tongue becomes numb to such a degree that I… I…

I’m sorry. I’m deflecting. I’m trying to distract you into a different topic rather than address the one at hand, and you deserve better than that.

I confess— ” #%&*@” are representative of cuss words. Which cuss words? Well, I leave that to the imagination of the reader as has been tradition for many, many decades. The use of ” #%&*@” has been a comic trope used by cartoonists for almost as long as there have been cartoons. Think Beetle Bailey and Sarge. Andy Capp and Flo. Garfield and Odie. I always imagine that if you were to put into words what Donald Duck was actually saying when he dropped a hammer on his webbed foot, it would look a lot like ” #%&*@”.

This brings us to my offense. I sense you are outraged by my use of ” #%&*@”. That is your right, of course, but I confess that I’m a bit bewildered by it. I’m not actually using cuss words. As you point out yourself, I’m using symbols that represent non-specific cuss words. So is it that you’re offended by my implying that cuss words actually exist? They do, but I didn’t really have anything to do with that. And I suspect that your students already know them. My daughter hears them virtually every time I drive on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. Have you ever driven it? It’s just… just horrible. No one uses turn signals. Cars enter from the left and the right. There are tolls all over it. The speed limit for much of it is 55, but if you’re not going 70 you’re taking your life in your hands and… I digress. Sorry.

The point is, my daughter knows these words because of my anxiety ridden death slaloms through New Jersey. As for your students, they didn’t learn them from me.

As to my punishment— I’m sorry you feel the need to remove my books from your shelves. I won’t talk you out of it, because those are your shelves and you should do with them what you feel is best. I’m not too concerned, since I’m fortunate and feel reasonably certain that your students can find my books elsewhere if they were to try hard enough.

I regret that your kids will feel disappointed, but not so much that I feel compelled to change they way I write my books. I imagine that your students will feel disappointed because they LIKE the way I write my books, ” #%&*@” and all. I will say that of all the things that will challenge them in their future readings, my symbols will likely be the least of them. But that’s a good thing. How dull our literature would be if we weren’t exposed to those things that bewilder us, perplex us, and possibly even offend us.

I will say one more thing. When you remove my books from your shelves, rather than dispose of them, I do hope you will consider donating them to another school, another library that might have use of them. But if the thought of exposing students other than yours to the crimes of ” #%&*@” concerns you, then you may send them to me, and I will gladly find them a happy home. I’ll even pay for shipping.

Thanks again,


Featured in the Library this Week: Women

I skipped the Kavanaugh hearings. I didn’t watch or listen to the news, I scrolled past articles and posts about it on Facebook, I declined to participate in conversations about it. I couldn’t possibly participate in any of it and not rage/cry/shut down to the point of needing medical intervention.

Instead, I provided service for my kids, their teachers, and their families as best I could at work. I made plans for consulting with coworkers at the main office the day after. I had pleasant interactions with the bus drivers and fellow riders on the way to and from work. I got home, scritched the one kitty who likes skritches, put some new toys out for the other two kitties, cleaned out my lunchbox, took out the trash, and washed my hands and face.

And then I rage-ate.

Monday I will start collecting money for a donation to my local Planned Parenthood, a gift card towards a giant pizza party, and I’ll probably buy cookies to deliver with the gift card, to say thank you to everyone who works there.

You gotta get through the best way you can.

Towards that end – I dug through all my donations and put together a collection of books about women and girls. Strong women: may be know them, may we be them, may we raise them.


On the Notion of “Protecting” Children From What They Might Read

I have a lot of feelings about banning books and “sanitizing” them for children or telling children they can’t read certain books (or at least can’t read them yet). I don’t think I could have put better words to my feelings, though, than Melissa Scholes Young did for her piece in the Washington Post.

I grew up in a country with heavy censorship rules. Lots of books, magazines, TV shows, and movies never made it into the country at all. Those that did were subject to “editing” – a movie with a romantic scene of, say, two people kissing would look like this:  two people leaning closer together, then suddenly leaning apart. The censors didn’t even do a pretty job of it – they simply removed the kiss.  Talk shows with an unfavorable guest – that person’s segment would be edited out, regardless of references elsewhere in the show to that guest. Sesame Street would be edited – no scenes with pigs in them, as they are vile, unclean animals. Mumford the Magician, instead of saying “A la peanut butter sandwiches!” would mouth words silently for a second, then you’d hear “…peanut butter sandwiches!”  It didn’t matter than the “a la” part was actually French. It sounded just like “Allah”, and you just don’t take God’s name in vain. Or in jest. Or anything else, really. Archie comic books would show up with black marker all over the girls’ swimsuits, so you didn’t see too much skin. They never blacked out the boys’ shorts or chests, just the girls’. A popular children’s magazine at the time put out an issue with a feature on a kid from Israel. I think it was about the growing popularity of soccer around the world, or something as intense as that. But because the kid was Israeli, and Israel was, shall we say, not in political favor, the censors ripped out that section of Every. Single. Copy. of that magazine before putting it on the magazine racks in the grocery store.

I grew up in an area of mostly Americans, some Brits, and a small percentage of folks from other countries. Most everyone ranted at some time or other about how oppressive the censorship was, how much better it was in other countries, especially in the US with their Freedom of Speech and all that.

Then I move back to the US and I hear how determined one group or another is to ban one book or another, to forbid the very mention of certain topics, But Who Will Think Of The Childern! Someone Must Protect The Childern! (misspelling intended for dramatic wailing and rending of garments). Are you freaking kidding me? We’re supposed to be the Land of the Free and the Brave! Freedom of Speech! IT’S THE FIRST FREAKING AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION, BECAUSE IT’S THAT DAMNED IMPORTANT.

Children are way smarter than most grownups give them credit for. More flexible in their thinking, more resilient than most grownups think too. I’ve been working with children my entire adult life, and a fair share of my life before I turned 21, for that matter. Children have an amazing capacity for understanding and adapting, when given honest opportunities. Children also have a pretty decent ability to figure some things out for themselves, given sufficient input. Lying to them, removing possibilities from them, deliberately misleading them, this does no one any good. What happens when those children find out you’ve been bullshitting them this entire time? They cease to believe anything further you have to say.  Give them age-/developmentally-appropriate information and vocabulary, sure. Protect them from everything in the world that is or might be scary?  If you remove all conflict, all risk, all potential danger, how in the world do you expect them to develop any skills to manage such moments on their own, down the road? Instead, help them navigate those moments. Help your children see those conflicts and risks and dangers for what they are – opportunities to observe, evaluate, reason, plan, and move forward. As you are doing so, use age-/developmentally-appropriate language and concepts and examples. Add to that information and vocabulary as they grow up and their cognitive skills develop. Give them credit for being the thinking, reasoning, functional human beings they are becoming.

While you’re thinking about that, here are some children’s books that have been challenged and banned over the years.  Which of these have you read? How thoroughly were you damaged by them? Do you read any of these with your own children? How comfortable are you given these as presents to someone else’s children?

Me? I’d read everything here except the Harry Potter books by the age of 12. And yet, somehow, by all accounts, I’ve turned out to be a reasonably well-adjusted, somewhat appropriately-social, contributing member of society.


more banned childrens books.JPGbanned childrens book.jpg10 favorite banned childrens books.jpg



Banned Book Week

banned book week 2018

Book banning is a serious form of censorship. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice. Books are banned or challenged for moral, political, religious, or commercial reasons. Once the book is banned, readers have either limited or no access to it. Every year, during the last week of September, a major event is held that promotes the freedom to read. Banned Books Week brings together librarians, educators, publishers, and readers who unite to draw attention to the harms of censorship.

Some folks have very definite ideas of what is and isn’t okay for other people to read and think. And when it comes to children and children’s literature? Forget about it. Attempts have been made to ban “Huckleberry Finn” in schools, libraries, and bookstores since the first month after it was published in 1885, and has been challenged more or less continuously ever since. Want to know why?

Why are books challenged? 

Each book that is banned or censored is done so for the content within the pages. There are a few common reasons that books have been banned or censored in schools, libraries, and book stores. These include:

Racial Issues: About and/or encouraging racism towards one or more group of people.

Encouragement of “Damaging” Lifestyles: Content of book encourages lifestyle choices that are not of the norm or could be considered dangerous or damaging. This could include drug use, co-habitation without marriage, or homosexuality.

Blasphemous Dialog: The author of the book uses words such as “God” or “Jesus” as profanity. This could also include any use of profanity or swear words within the text that any reader might find offensive.

Sexual Situations or Dialog: Many books with content that include sexual situations or dialog are banned or censored.

Violence or Negativity: Books with content that include violence are often banned or censored. Some books have also been deemed too negative or depressing and have been banned or censored as well.

Presence of Witchcraft: Books that include magic or witchcraft themes. A common example of these types of books are J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.

Religious Affiliations (unpopular religions): Books have been banned or censored due to an unpopular religious views or opinions in the content of the book. This is most commonly related to satanic or witchcraft themes found in the book. Although, many books have also been banned or censored for any religious views in general that might not coincide with the public view.

Political Bias: Most Commonly occurs when books support or examine extreme political parties/philosophies such as: fascism, communism, anarchism, etc.

Age Inappropriate: These books have been banned or censored due to their content and the age level at which they are aimed. In some cases children’s books are viewed to have “inappropriate” themes for the age level at which they are written for.

Many books have been banned or censored in one or more of these categories due to a misjudgment or misunderstanding about the books contents and message. Although a book may have been banned or labeled a certain way, it is important that the reader makes his/her own judgements on the book. Many books that have been banned or censored later were dropped from banned books lists and were no longer considered controversial. For this reason, banned books week occurs yearly to give readers a chance to revisit past or recently banned books to encourage a fresh look into the controversies the books faced.

Source: “Common Reasons for Banning Books,” Fort Lewis College, John F. Reed Library. Banned Books, Censorship & Free Speech. November 15, 2013. Web. March 19, 2014.


Find out how a book challenge/ban works here.


words have power.png

Thinking about the Division 92 LFL a few months on

Thinking about the Division 92 Little Free Library, three months after we opened –

As soon as I’d heard of Little Free Libraries, I knew I wanted to host one of my own as well. I don’t know how long it took me to get around to ordering one, but it took almost three years to get from my LFL showing up in the mail to putting it in the ground and opening it up to the public. I started to paint it myself. I had a plan (pumpkin orange, eggplant purple, olive green, was going to make stencils to have “Division92 LFL” on one side). I did get the weatherproofing stain done, inside and out. I also mod-podged several pages of an old book to the interior of the lower level – the pages are from the beginning of a chapter, and I managed to keep them in order, so you can read every other page from the first 12 or 14 pages from the 6th chapter of this book no one’s heard of.

Then my LFL sat in my garage. And sat and sat and sat. An artist friend of mine offered to paint it for me. I couldn’t say “yes” quickly enough. She got it all done for me, and with the color scheme I’d originally wanted. She included the dogwood tree over the LFL and the flicker that visits the feeders in our yard! She even donated a bag of books to get things started!LFL one quarter profile.jpg

I wish we’d managed to get the post sunk just a little deeper into the ground. As it was, it took at least three of us to get it in as far as we did – We live on an old river bed, so our yard is nothing but packed clay and river rock with raised fruit/flower/veg beds sitting on top. Because the post is set so high, and because of our 3-foot fence, short & little kids can’t get into the LFL on their own. Which means the children’s books aren’t moving quite as well as I’d hoped. On the other hand, little kids don’t pass our house very often on their own in the first place.

I’d also hoped to be able to set up a bench or chair for folks to sit and look through books for a bit. Unfortunately, there are some factors that prevent this. 1) We don’t have a sidewalk strip, and we do have a fence right at the edge of our yard. So nowhere to put seating that doesn’t block the sidewalk  2) Our neighborhood is a little sketchy, so the seating would likely disappear fairly quickly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far (knock on wood!) that we haven’t had any vandalism yet, nor any weirdness left inside the LFL, but I also have to assume that’s just a matter of time. As it is, our LFL is set up in full view of the large windows of our house. Not only can we watch people at our LFL, it’s obvious from the sidewalk that we can. I suspect this has helped prevent some issues.

We’re just getting into our rainy season. I’m going to have to look into some weatherproofing strategies. I know I need some DampRid inside. I might also look at blocking up the joins to make sure rain and bugs can’t get in that way. I’ve also been meaning to find a new latch. The latch that came with my LFL is nice and all, but if you don’t set it just right, the door sometimes opens on its own.  I’ll eventually get some light inside as well. Probably just some cheap battery-powered lights, as I have to assume they’ll disappear quickly. Though I do know one or two people who might be able to rig up a solar-powered thing. Hm.

Right from the beginning, people knew what to do. We not only noticed books leaving, we noticed new books showing up. And the one day the LFL was wiped out (seriously – adult, children’s, English, other languages, fiction, non-fiction – *all gone*), I was on my way to an all-day event so I couldn’t do anything about it. On my way to my event, I posted to my neighborhood facebook groups that I was a little surprised and sad about it, but that we’d keep going. By the time I got home, less than 6 hours later, the LFL was completely full, someone had dropped off two boxes of books, and someone else had texted me to say they intended to drop off books but found it full so they gave the books to another, nearby LFL. And almost all of those messages and books were from people I still haven’t met yet. How awesome is that?  We’ve also gotten boxes and bags of books from folks in the neighborhood or at least passing through. There’s one guy who’s given a TON of books and I haven’t been home for any of his donations yet. My MIL met him once, and everything else was just set on our front porch. I like to think I’m getting to know him at least a little by the books he’s given us!

Most folks are using the LFL when I’m not home, or at least not outside. I’ve spoken with a few people. I’m hoping to find some regular visitors and get to know them a little. That’s an ideal outcome, though. Right now I’m happy people are using it, nothing truly awful has happened yet, and I’ve been gratified by the few folks who do spot me while I’m gardening, and shout “thanks for the books!”.

Looks like, overall, we’re doing okay.  Image result for happy face emoji

Literary Tattoos

I find tattoos fascinating. I’m always interested in what designs people choose to put on their bodies – I want to know the stories Image result for literary tattoo clipartbehind them. You can only imagine what I think of literary tattoos.  Lucky for me, I live in Portland, OR, one of the most tattooed cities in the US. What books, what authors, what quotes and images stick with you? What sticks with you and becomes important enough to put on your body permanently?  What are favorite tattoos you’ve seen?

Check out these links to tattoos of books & literary tattoos:

tattoos of generic books

quotes and images from books on Popsugar – who would have thought to combine Nancy Drew with Hamlet?

tattoos along with the books that inspired them

Not quite ready for permanent ink?  Maybe these temporary tattoos or maybe these 

Also, some kid books about tattoos:

How Come I’m Not Colored?

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Why Does Mommy Have a Tattoo?


***I have no connection to any businesses or websites linked in this post. I just think the tattoos and books are awesome. I make no money nor do I receive anything of any sort from these businesses when you click through the links.