The Little Free Library on 25th and Mission Streets, outside Mission Pie. Photo by Andrea Valencia

In today’s Afternoon Report, a brief history of all those intriguing free book boxes throughout the Mission District:

It began on Bryant Street.

In August of 2013, artist and Mission resident Francis Baker saw that people were using the  tree in front of his house as a junkyard for free stuff. He was inspired.  Rather than garbage, Baker changed the way the area around the tree was used and installed a box with the words “Take One, Give One.” (It was subject of a docu-drawing by Mission Local contributor Molly Olsen in 2013)

That box still stands today on 20th and Bryant, by the 27 bus stop, and similar boxes have appeared throughout the Mission.

Manuela Farrell, whose house is directly in front of the free library on Bryant, said people often stop, look and take a book.

“I keep an eye out on it,” she said and explained that she maintains the library since her neighbor, the box’s founder, has moved.

“Sometimes people clean it out and other times people put new books in it,” she said.

At the liquor store on the corner, Carlos Ramírez, who works the cash register said he liked the book box.

“If you are not using a book it’s better if you leave it and if it interests you, you pick it up,” Ramírez said in Spanish.  He said he likes how all the books are clean –unlike the ones usually left on the street. Though  “not really much of a reader,” Ramírez  said he binges on narco-novellas.

Since the Free Library was installed on Bryant and 20th, others have appeared.

At 3047 24thStreet, Mary Hogue and Aerin Willey, the founders of Mission Praxis, set up a “Trade a Treasure” box right outside their store. Slightly different from a free library, theirs is usually stocked with clothing and jewelry made right at their shop, or with items that their neighbors decide to leave there as well.

“It refills itself,” said Hogue about the box that doesn’t go by empty for too long.

Hougue and Willey mentioned they enjoy the surprises other artists leave for them. “Bini leaves his stuff,” said Hogue of Bruce Hallman, who leaves his Bini talismans in the box.

“We also get artwork –mostly of vaginas,” said Hogue of the anonymous artwork sometimes left above the doorway. “It was meant for us,” she said.

Hogue also said that the “local gals of 24th Street” enjoy the free costume change from the stuff they find in the box. “They love it,” said Hogue.

On January 11, Capp Street Crap reported on a shelf being used as a free library on Capp, between 21st and 22nd. However, the library was not there as of Wednesday January 21st.

Outside Mission Pie on 25th and Mission Streets a more official library has been set up.

Through the Little Free Library project, Mission Pie set up their own library in June 2014, said Mariah Hasson, who has worked at Mission Pie for the past 3 years. Hasson got a book about Latina identity from her mom and after reading it, she thought it was such a good book that she decided to leave it in the normally full free library.

Lee Caldwell, who for the past 50 years has worked for AT&T and was on his lunch break from the “top security building” on 25th and Capp, said the best book he has ever read was The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, which he got from the free library. “The book was so good I had to keep it,” he said.

If you are on the look out for more free books, check out the free book box of Alley Cats on 24th and Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street.

Update: Reader @BellaxPerla informs us via Twitter that there is another Little Free Library on 22nd between Florida and Alabama.

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Andrea hails from Mexico City and lives in the Mission where she works as a community interpreter. She has been involved with Mission Local since 2009 working as a translator and reporter.

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