A Place for Bookies!

With the walls done in the library, we moved quickly on to infrastructure. But not that boring stuff like plumbing and electrical – no the fun stuff like built-in bookshelves. For, what’s a Library without bookshelves?!

Fitz and I adore our book collection and have the same penchant for increasing it. So, to support our spiraling habit, we made sure to build LOTS of bookshelves!

Bookshelves for “Bookies” – my toddler name for my greatest love on earth! Often said in sheer glee as my parents and I walked hand-in-hand to the library to re-load on my addiction. Before I could walk (and long after I could), my addiction was fueled with nightly story time, on my dad’s lap – in the big rocking chair with the wide wood arms. I loved certain books with a particular obsession and would request them night after night. For a young parent with a full-time job, the repetitive reading of these simple bookies became – I would imagine – a little tedious. So, my dad would start skipping pages (mind you, we were probably on the 10th book of the evening) in an effort to speed up the process. But I always caught him! “Dad, those pages are stuck together!” “Dad, didn’t you see – you skipped a part!” “Dad, do it again!” My innocent insistence on linear progression steering us back on track, time and time again.

I grew up in a house infamous for “Quiet Time,” my mother’s artfully crafted “Leave me alone for one hour so I can think straight Time”. My brother and I were sent to our rooms to do… quiet things. Presumably, we were supposed to nap but, because neither of us found that an enjoyable activity, “Nap Time” quickly got swapped for its attractive cousin “Quiet Time.” There was a door between our rooms that gave us needed access to each other – and humanity – during these agonizing 60-minute escapes. We weren’t allowed to open the door (that could be heard from downstairs) but we could pass notes or tiny objects back and forth to our hearts’ content. Were 18 hours of playing together every day not enough?! On the rare days where we let our fascination with annoying each other at the door go long enough to actually be “Quiet,” I found myself turning to bookies again. So began a personal love with these rectangular objects that seemed to hold the key to other worlds.

High school English, writing and theater classes fed my love for the written word – and prompted an inevitable major in English literature in college – a major I managed to cram into the spaces between dance classes. Movement and words fill the same space in my life though and, as one takes off, I often find a lack of motivation for the other. As I pursued dance professionally in San Francisco, I wrote less but danced a whole lot more – using my body to convey concepts. I still read though. I remember discovering the Harry Potter series – years after everyone else – but with the same unadulterated fervor. I was particularly entrenched one Thanksgiving in SF. We were hosting dinner for a group of friends – everyone cooking and carrying on in the kitchen. I went to my bedroom to grab something and an unfinished chapter of HP caught my eye… an hour later, “Em! Where’d you go? Dinner’s ready!” as they found me reading in my bedroom! A horrible hostess for sure!

When Fitz and I met, I had to fold my love for bookies into a relationship that craved constant attention. Fitz loves books too but, as I’ll often tease him, he loves the IDEA of books more than the books themselves. A designer at heart – he loves the look. His collection is filled with amazing picture books, art books, graphic design collections, type set books, and the like. Has he read a book lately? No. BUT – he does play “Bookworm” in the evenings – and he’s REALLY good – so that counts for something! His geometric mind loves the linguistic challenge of the iphone game – and it keeps him occupied as I read yet-another-novel next to him. We’ve tried the “Oh, honey, I’ll read to you!” game. Early in our relationship, I set out to read him “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho – a wonderful book to read aloud, filled with points to ponder and truths to steer toward. But, by page 5, he was soundly asleep. A few weeks ago, we tried anew with a book he got me for my birthday. I teased that he needed to stay awake but 2 and a half pages in, he was asleep again!

With the idea for this community space in the works for a few years now, we’ve had some time to consider what to offer here. Books are an inevitable. All of the books we’ve collected, we’ve picked with the intention of building a library space in the cafe – for people to enjoy these small rectangles of paper like they did in the good ol’ days. We have a vast collection:

  • some from our pasts
  • some from San Francisco Craig’s List days
  • some from the estate sale we ran in SF
  • a generous donation from the previous owner of our building and his very large collection of history and political books,
  • more Craig’s List finds in Northampton – a lot in French
  • an occasional purchase
  • …and the Book Hut.

The Book Hut is a magical place out at Northampton’s Department of Public Works building – where recycling and other refuse is taken. There is a small hut where you can drop off books you don’t want anymore and – miracle of miracles – other people can come take them! It’s as simple as that! We’ve only been twice because, as I’m sure you can suspect, Amber Lane would get out of hand if we did much more than that. The beautiful kindness of strangers!

The concept is that people can come to our Library and read on site. We’re going to have a “current reads” shelf where people can stash something they are in the middle of – until the next visit. My hope is that other visitors who don’t know what to read can catch a cue from the “current reads” as suggestions. Who knows, maybe two people will be reading the same book at the same time… and then one day they’ll cross paths… and start a conversation about it! Fancy that – a curated social interaction. 🙂


Designing the bookshelves.

We settled on 2 built-in bookshelves and a series of floating shelves along our brick wall. We spent a long time discussing the heights of the shelves and how they would function with our hoard. Obviously, books come in many different sizes – and you definitely don’t want to get into the awkward “Oh, I have to turn this book sideways” situation.

Using the generous supply of “Westfield Wood” – see previous posts in this series – we set out to refinish a bunch of oak shelves caked in white paint… all in ONE DAY.

That was a LONG day, let me tell you. Even with our best effort, paint still remained in the valleys of the wood. Determined to get to a clean surface, we took to a more aggressive sander – the orbital. After knocking down the grain, we cleaned up the surface again with hand sanding to take out the circular “whisk” marks of the orbital. And then we stained them, to bring in a warmth.

Next up, building the bases. These shelves are going to hold a lot of weight – let’s make them sturdy! The beauty of the “build yourself” mentality is that you can screw the base into the floor decking and wall studs and then build around it!

With a project of this magnitude, you need to make sure you’re well fed. This one was one for the books, that’s for sure! 😉


Homemade dill pesto + scones top off a first-class breakfast!

With that kind of start, we knew we could finish!

And then there’s the chicken wire…

With these shelves almost done, we turned to constructing the floating shelves – a simpler task… in some ways! We still had to drill into the brick and get these things level!

Slap some molding on… put the tops on… wood fill… re-stain.. Is anyone even still reading this post? …And, done!


Bookshelf 1 of 2, creating the “entrance way” to the Library.

Now, about those bookies…




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