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Street Books

September 21, 2012

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I’m so inspired by this project taking place in Portland, Oregon. Street Books is a bicycle-powered mobile library for people living outside. It is bicycle with a built in cart that is full books and two street Liberians; Laura Moulton and Sue Zalokar. Patrons are able to check out books with out the usual requirements of an ID and proof of address. They use the old school card with the pocket inside the cover and the patrons return the books when they are able. Those who wish to can be photographed with their book of choice, offer reviews, and contribute their own stories from the road which get shown at www. streetbooks.org.


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In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Golding puts forth the idea that a group of young people, left to their own devices on a remote island, will revert to savagery (spoiler alert: it gets pretty freakin’ savage). I spotted a copy of the book in our Street Books library during my shift on Wednesday, and since I was stationed in front of the Right2Dream Too camp at 4th & Burnside, it was easy to ruminate on how the group of people maintaining the camp have done so far. They’re not on a desert island, sure, and they’re not children, but in many ways they have embarked on a similar kind of experiment. They have created roofs overhead, rules by which to govern themselves, and they have brought together a diverse community of people who happen to have one important commonality: lack of shelter. Now, instead of sleeping solo under a bridge, or being poked awake and told to move on by police downtown, there is a resting place where they can sleep without fear of being disturbed, or losing important possessions. I get the sense that the camp has the kind of struggles one would expect when a diverse group of people assembles and lives together amid different personalities, management styles, and ideas. But I also think that William Golding would be pleasantly surprised to see the society built at Right2Dream going so well.
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He lit up when he saw a Webster’s Dictionary on the cart. “This is what I need,” he said. He is writing his memoirs and with no computer, that means he is doing it the old fashioned way. We hope to have a copy of your book to loan to others one day, Bentley.
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Sahar was happy to find a children’s book on the cart. She took it for her son. Her first language is Arabic. Though her English is quite good, she is working to improve her reading skills. Reading books aloud with her son helps to work on pronunciation and vocabulary. I plan to look through our back stock of books to find some more books for Sahar and her son.
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Erneste came to me last week and told me he was sorry, but he had passed the books he had borrowed onto someone else. He wasn’t sure they would come back. I told him that was okay. We were happy to have books in the hands of readers. When I pulled up to the camp this morning, he flagged me down happily. His friend had returned the books to him which he promptly returned to Street Books. And he made a donation of a new book too! Thanks, Erneste!

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