Little Library Adds Spirit to Terra Linda


Little Free Libraries, like this one in Terra Linda, can serve as one strategy for unifying a neighborhood. Photos by Dave Weinstein

It’s often the little things that make a neighborhood a real neighborhood. That at least seems to be so in a portion of the rambling Eichler tract in Terra Linda, where the installation of a Little Free Library was aimed at increasing the sense of community.

“I was walking by in the evening and I saw this,” Linda Enders said, as she stood near the Little Free Library at the corner of Cortes Court and Duran Drive, “and I thought it was such a good idea to draw the neighborhood together.”

Little Free Libraries, part of an international movement and international organization, have popped up in many neighborhoods, including in the Eichler tract of Greenridge in Castro Valley. Many of them are shaped like, what else, neighboring Eichler homes.

On Cortes Court, neighbors used their two-month old library as a centerpiece for a communal gathering, celebrating its completion and celebrating the neighborhood, with a bake sale and mini street party. Funds raised through the event benefit the non-profit Little Free Library organization.

At Free Libraries, passersby are encouraged to take books for reading – and to add books for others to read.

Jacqueline Berg supervised construction of the library, which was built by Cooper Scott and his dad, who live in an Eichler in San Jose.

Spearheading the Terra Linda effort is Jacqueline Berg, who owns the Eichler where the library has been installed. She lived in the home for a number of years, and was known for bringing people together by holding neighborhood parties.

That tradition kind of disappeared once she moved away, Jacqueline said – which inspired her to create the library. She read about the father-son woodworking team of Mike and Cooper Scott in a post in the CA Modernist blog and contacted them.

Cooper and his dad construct Eichler-style birdhouses. Jacqueline had them build one for her – and then called on them to create the solidly built library – complete with Eichler overhang to keep things dry in a downpour.

“They customized it to my idea,” Jacqueline said of the Scotts, whose craftsmanship she praises.

The library was dedicated to a close friend of Jackie’s, Barbara J. Land, a well known Bay Area librarian and “a volunteer for many needy organizations” who has passed away.

Neighbors gathered on a Saturday afternoon to munch on cupcakes, chat, and exchange books.

“It’s one of the nicest Little Free Libraries I’ve seen,” said Kathleen Archambeau, who came up for the celebration from Oakland. Archambeau, a writer, has seen many.

Judy Bissey, who’s lived in Terra Linda since the 1970s, said it remains a friendly place, and said she meets people when she walks the neighborhood. But about community events, she said, “We don’t do as much as we used to do. We used to have neighborhood barbecues and an annual Fourth of July. We’ve had a lot of [homeowner] turnover. We were one of the youngest when we moved here, and now we’re one of the oldest.”

Among the folks stopping by were Vera Cook and her son Ritchie. Vera is an original owner, having moved in with her late husband in 1961. Ritchie reminisced about the old days, when the area was filled with kids. For about 20 years, he said , there were far fewer.

But now young families are moving in, he said, and the neighborhood is again filling with young people – many of whom need books.

Kaia Sheean, who baked the cupcakes, holds a newborn neighbor during the celebration.

Kaia Sheean, 14, lives in the home her folks rent from Berg, and her family serves as librarians. Her mother, Karen, is library manager, she said.

Kaia loves to read (as well as make documentary films, a skill she is developing at the Marin School of the Arts). She is attracted to highly dramatic tales and mysteries, and said she has found several good books in the free library.

“Books are expensive,” she noted. Kaia contributed to the bake sale by baking cupcakes and other treats.

She and her brother, Austin, keep the exterior of the library clean, and Karen makes sure it is well stocked. Her husband, Chip, noted that their home is crammed with books, and many end up in the free library.

Karen also makes sure there are current books there. “I go through a book a week,” she said, and often deposits it in the library when she is through.

“It’s been full constantly, and it has a really good rotation,” Karen said. “It’s pretty active.”

Shervin Tajbaksh, an architect who lives in the Eichlers, brought a stack of books to add to the library.

Shervin Tajbaksh found out that full means full when he arrived at the bake sale carrying an armful of books to donate. No room!

Chip Sheean, who loves the neighborhood for its quiet, its friendliness, its schools, and the lack of a “McDonald’s on every corner,” sees the little library as one more way of making the place special.

A graphic designer, Sheean said he found a great design book featuring some of his heroes in the little library, one he didn’t know existed. “It blew my mind,” he said.

“It’s fun,” he said of the library. “It’s a nice addition to the neighborhood. It kind of warms the place up.

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