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I’m addicted to Little Free Libraries. Every time I pass one, I have to take a book. Sometimes I take three or four. Okay, sometimes I take them all.
I always mean to return the books, or to add something new. But I never seem to get around to it. I just hoard them. Am I a terrible person? Doesn’t circulation mean some people take out, other people put in? Or is that communism?
Please help. I can’t sleep and my neighbors are starting to catch on.
Mary, [Neighborhood withheld by request]
Much like my fondness for using stranger's business cards as toothpicks, yours is a peculiar but harmless addiction. Sure, you might be abusing the unwritten social agreement of Little Free Libraries (LFLs) but people break more serious social contracts all the time – for example, by tipping waiters with car wash coupons, or bringing flavored lube to their gyno exams, or paying women far less than their male colleagues, as if the human penis alone executes 17 percent of a person's daily tasks — as if it had that kind of stamina.
Personally, I think you're doing a public service by raiding LFLs – they're predominantly used as a precious way for people to dump their junk – but if you're feeling self conscious about it, you have a few options:
• Build a LFL in your front yard so that its contents are technically your property, and you're reminded to contribute a book every time you leave the house.
• If you can't stop hoarding books but you could see yourself contributing other stuff, try replacing books with themed items other LFL patrons might find useful. For instance, take a copy of Anna Sewell's classic Black Beauty and leave tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, or replace a copy of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale with a pair of scissors and old shoelaces so that another patron may tie her own tubes. (These are optimistic examples – in all likelihood you'll be replacing stacks of 50 Shades of Grey with anus-relaxing poppers. Still, I consider that a LFL upgrade and your neighbors will, too.)