Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: The Librarian Diaries

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire


As a child, I’d wanted to be a librarian – as well as a mother, a singer and dancer, and a journalist. Defined loosely, they’ve all now come true (except for singer, and thank goodness for that). I have two children, I did cheerleading and dance when I was younger, and I spent more than 20 years as a corporate writer and then a freelancer for various magazines.

The first time I stopped by one of the handful of Little Free Libraries in town, I found a book that had been on my “to read” list for years: A Feather On the Breath of God. Surely it was a sign. I had an overflowing bookshelf, an unrealized childhood dream and, suddenly, a new plan. I also had a good friend who could build the library: a three-story replica of my Victorian house, with two shelves for books and a third-floor garret featuring dolls from my childhood dollhouse lounging on 1970's era chairs and reading.

While she built the library, I amassed my collection, culling books from my shelves and frequenting used-book stores. I invited neighbors and local friends to an open house to celebrate the new library. I amused myself with alliteration: “Little Library Launch, with Libations!” One friend threatened to compose a lascivious limerick.

The day of the open house, it rained. But my guests all trooped out to the curb to visit the library to borrow and contribute books, jumpstarting the library lending process. They shared books I wouldn’t have thought to add: mysteries, self-help books, Man Booker prize winners and Oprah’s Book Club picks. That night my son sprawled out on his bed, engrossed in a book a friend had brought. I started reading a William Trevor short-story collection that had also just been contributed.

The next day, I tied two Mylar balloons to the library and added a sign saying “Now Open!” The kids across the street borrowed a Flat Stanley book, but other than that, business was pretty quiet. My eight-year-old daughter and her friend tried to drum up interest: her friend jumped around with a sign, while my daughter waved two giant fallen maple leaves like pompons. Two cyclists slowed and smiled but didn’t stop.

I spent a lot of time staring out the front window at the street, willing walkers or joggers to appear. My kids started calling it “Lisa Lynne Lewis’ lonely little library.”

Later that week, I noticed a family slowly heading our way. The dad was talking on his cell phone and pushing a double-stroller, and the mom was following behind, limping as if her left leg was injured. She noticed the library and stopped. I stepped back so I was partially hidden by the blinds. She studied the library and started perusing the books. At last, she took one. I recognized it from the bright-orange cover: Little Bee. She placed it in the basket under the stroller and they slowly continued on their way.

I check the books in my library almost daily, eager to see if any have been borrowed or contributed. I wonder about the woman who borrowed Little Bee: Is she enjoying it? Is she taking good care of it? A local friend with her own little library advised me it will probably take time for the concept to catch on in the neighborhood. The rainy weather definitely hasn’t helped.

It turns out there are certain parallels between being a parent and being a librarian: months of preparation and expectations, mixed with a bit of blind faith and a large dose of patience. When the timing is finally right, “my” books will venture into the world, ready to circulate and be appreciated by people I may never meet. I know already that success will be a bittersweet process of letting them go.

photo for blog post


Join our After Page One series.  We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude.   The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.

Lisa L. Lewis has written for SlateThe Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Natural Bridge, Prime Number Magazine, and Cleaver Magazine, where she’s an assistant fiction editor. Based in Southern California, Lewis has an MFA from Mills College and is an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.

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love the little library and hope it's no longer lonely!
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