Notes on a Free Library Encountered on a Sunny Saturday in a Park in Amsterdam

Have you ever taken a book from a free library? I have. It got me thinking about how books can change the world. Want to know how? Read on!

Do you know the song Saturday in the Park by Chicago? It’s a happy little song about, well, someone walking around in a park on a Saturday. It’s sunny, he’s happy, and he observes all the people over there. Since yesterday was a Saturday, and the weather was lovely, I decided to do my own version of this song and visit the Amstelpark in Amsterdam. I love parks, and I love watching people, so I had a great time. But the thing that I liked most wasn’t people, but books. Or more specifically, it was a Book Pole. Want to know what on Earth it is and why I liked it so much? Read on!

Do you know what a free library is? You simply put one of your own books in there, and take another one out of it. That way, you can read all the books in the world without ever buying new ones. Sometimes they’re simple boxes attached to a house, or entire minibuses designed like a proper library. The one I saw yesterday was really nice, too. Take a look at it, the design is ever so simple, but I love how it’s located at the middle of the park. It’s called the Book Pole (boekenpaal in Dutch), because it’s a bookshelf on a pole. The books are visible from every direction, and they’re protected from the elements and from hungry rodents. I heard that there are usually many more books in there, but I still thought there was quite a sizable collection in there.

It’s such a noble idea. Sharing books means that more people will start reading, and some might even develop a(n un) healthy love of books, which means they might start buying their own – and perhaps even share some of them in the place where they first found their favourite books. But then I started wondering about what kind of books would be left behind there. Would people really put their favourite books in there? I know I wouldn’t, because I love rereading my most beloved books. But then I was worried that people would only put books in there that they would never read again because they didn’t like them. Does that, then, mean that these free libraries are filled with unwanted books, unloved and lonely, desperately waiting for someone to pick them up? I’m both a cynic and a romantic, able to see the best and worst in everything. Yesterday, however, walking in the park with the sun on my face, romantic Elke won, and I started thinking of how these free libraries would change the world. This is how it would happen:

Imagine there was one book that was so perfect, that nobody could keep it to themselves. Instead, it simply had to be shared with others. It was put inside one of those free libraries, and when it was picked up by someone else, they decided to do the same thing. And that’s how one book went on a grand adventure through, at first, the entire country, and then around the world, leaving each reader happier than they had been before they had finished this book. I like to think that I would read that same book too, eventually, and I would smile, knowing that my life had changed a little bit. Then I would start writing a story about how I found my new favourite book in a free library, and I would beg Chicago to add some lyrics about books to the song Saturday in the Park, and they would kindly reply to me that they would. And this new recording would be a worldwide hit, and each park would build their own pretty little libraries. And people would be so psyched about them that everyone would start reading again and leaving their books at these places, because they wanted the world to know about their favourite stories…

Now wouldn’t that be great?

Have you ever taken a book from a free library? Which one would you put in there? Let me know in the comments! Also make sure to follow me for more book musings!


    1. Excellent choice! I think I would put in a classic, like The Picture of Dorian Gray (I would have to make sure I had a spare copy, though).


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