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La Jolla’s newest Little Free Library pays homage to former bookstore

The White Rabbit Little Free Library is in the 1100 block of Virginia Way in La Jolla.
The White Rabbit Little Free Library is in the 1100 block of Virginia Way in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Brian Bigley)

When it came to establishing the latest in the Little Free Libraries scattered across La Jolla, Brian Bigley, Marko Barron and Bo Fellows set out to create something to encourage literacy, generate a new “life cycle” for books and pay homage to a long-gone but beloved La Jolla bookstore.

The Little Free Library program encourages construction of public cabinets with books that can be taken and left freely. There are 11 in La Jolla, including the newest addition, which was dedicated over Memorial Day weekend in the 1100 block of Virginia Way.

To find it, just follow the white rabbit.

Using a cutout of the White Rabbit character from “Alice in Wonderland” as an occasional decoration, The White Rabbit Little Free Library honors the White Rabbit bookstore that once stood on Girard Avenue.

Fellows, a native La Jollan, said he had the “unfortunate task” of helping to liquidate the store when it closed in 2008.

“I kept the signage, which is a beautiful piece of artwork,” he said. “I’ve had it for 13 years. Kids got their books from the store for years, so when Marko wanted to build a Little Free Library, it melded together to make this a place for kids to get books once again.”

After seeing Little Free Libraries in the Bay Area, Barron wanted to establish one when he moved to La Jolla a year ago, he said.

“My philosophy is, ‘Don’t shelve good books, share them,’” he said. “I’m a voracious reader, so personally giving away books is something I enjoy. I like the sharing of books.”

One day, while Barron, Bigley and Fellows were sitting in a friend’s backyard, they noticed a dilapidated bookshelf that needed “either some TLC or a trash bin,” Bigley joked.

They realized they could use it to build an upcycled cabinet. They acquired belts from a local thrift shop to affix it to a nearby tree, made framing out of leftover picket fences and readied the White Rabbit bookstore signage.

“It’s hard to believe it wasn’t always what it is,” Bigley said. “It’s all reused material.”

The bookcase is divided into two sections, with two doors. There’s a bottom shelf for children’s titles and a top shelf for adults.

The newest Little Free Library has been well-received, Bigley said, and there has been a rotating selection of titles, including “The Overstory: A Novel” by Richard Powers (which Barron highly recommends), “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper, “A Life on Our Planet” by David Attenborough, “Trinity” by Leon Uris and various cookbooks.

Bo Fellows, Marko Barron and Brian Bigley dedicate The White Rabbit Little Free Library with cutouts of Dr. Seuss characters.
Bo Fellows, Marko Barron and Brian Bigley dedicate the Little Free Library created in honor of the former White Rabbit bookstore, with balloons and cutouts of Dr. Seuss characters.
(Courtesy of Brian Bigley)

Bigley said they wanted to construct a Little Free Library because “literacy is the foundation to all learning. It limits your potential when you can’t read. It’s a skill and a utility that’s necessary to function in our society. If you can eliminate the cost factor and can contribute to continuing literacy, it’s a great thing.”

The three said they hope to create a new “life cycle” of books, in which they are bought from local bookstores, read and taken to the Little Free Library to be picked up by someone else.

As a bonus, Fellows said, the decorative library has caused drivers to slow down.

“We’re going to put a sign up that reads ‘Slow down, read a book,’” he said. “We’ve had discussions in the neighborhood because the speeding traffic is on everyone’s minds. Because Virginia Way runs parallel to Torrey Pines Road, people will use it as a bypass and go upward of 50 mph when the speed limit is 25. So anything to get people to slow down is a good thing.”

Other Little Free Libraries are in La Jolla Shores, on small streets on either side of La Jolla Boulevard in The Village and Windansea, and a few in La Jolla Alta. Some are small and simple, others are colorful and ornate.

Learn more about creating and registering a Little Free Library at littlefreelibrary.org. ◆