Street Books: a bicycle-powered mobile library for people living outside

July 11, 2011 § 4 Comments

Walking to work today, I passed a paper memorial on the steps above the Eastbank Esplanade: RIP Coop Dog, it said, You Will Be Missed. It was written with a black felt-tip in bubble writing and taped to the concrete with a piece of electrical tape. Six or seven wilted roses and yellow irises lay around the meager monument along with some small grey rocks and two empty beer cans: Old English 800 and Rolling Rock. The words Christian Cooper May 11th 1973 to July 2011 were printed at the top of the page and a childlike drawing of a man in a baseball cap beneath a tree filled the remainder of the white space.

I don’t know for certain but I’m assuming Christian Cooper was one of the many homeless people in Portland. Living in Chinatown, our loft looks over Transition Projects and every day dozens of men and women queue around our block for food at Blanchet House. It’s impossible not to notice but noticing is different than seeing, and seeing is a long way from understanding let alone caring.

I do care but I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to help. Thankfully, somebody in Portland is thinking outside the box and in ways that go beyond the issue of core survival needs like food and shelter. When I heard about Street Librarian Laura Moulton and her mobile library, it was one of those of course! concepts that seem so obvious in retrospect but I know I’d never have thought of it. Me! To whom books and reading are so important, so vital, so unthinkable of life without.

I was struck by the makeshift memorial for the same reason I am moved by Street Books: the humanity of it. The universal need to place stones and roses around written words and say You will be missed. The need to read, to escape, to discover, to explore, to feed off of language, to nourish the mind and soul. When I try to contemplate the experience of a homeless person, I never think much beyond base needs and necessities. And yet, why should reading be less of a necessity or a priority for someone who lives out of doors?

I love that the people who frequent Street Books have very distinct and specific tastes and preferences and aren’t afraid to request more of what they’d like. They’re not willing to settle and their librarian is doing her best to get them what they want: Book Requests include Louis L’Amour, Stephen King, Tim O’Brien, Johanna Lindsey, Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows, Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement, Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, Richard Wright’s Black Boy, Native Son, Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, On the Road and Subterranean Blues, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath and any Philosophy/Psychology books.

Ben borrowed a James Patterson.

This project makes me so happy and inspired to think beyond the obvious and the assumed. Street Books reminds me that each of us has a face, a name and a favourite book. And, hopefully, someone who’ll think of us when we’re here and miss us when we’re gone.

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§ 4 Responses to Street Books: a bicycle-powered mobile library for people living outside

  • Eric says:

    I’m assuming the memorial u saw was for a good friend of mine, and countless others. His name is Christian Dominic Cooper, he was from Cape Cod, MA, and had recently moved to Portland to live with friends of ours. He was literally the kindest, most selfless, caring, open-minded person that I have ever known. Chris was born on 5/11/83 and unfortunately passed away 7/2/11. He was loved by many, and will be greatly missed but never forgotten. For the record, he was not homeless.

  • Eric says:

    I’m assuming the memorial u saw was for a good friend of mine, and countless others. His name is Christian Dominic Cooper, he was from Cape Cod, MA, and had recently moved to Portland to live with friends of ours. He was literally the kindest, most selfless, caring, open-minded person that I have ever known. Chris was born on 5/11/83 and unfortunately passed away 7/2/11. He was loved by many, and will be greatly missed but never forgotten. For the record, he was not homeless. Nonetheless, I applaud Laura Moulton and yourself for caring. Streetbooks sounds like a project that embodies and shares the trait of unconditional caring for others that my friend Chris lived his life by. I believe he and his family would be honored to have his name mentioned in the same breath of the Streetbooks project. Keep up the good work, and thank you for caring.

    • Eric,

      I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. I’m going to email you directly now but I hope my post didn’t cause any pain, it must be strange to see a stranger mentioning his name.

      Thank you for letting me know more about him; again, I’m so sorry.
      Deborah.

  • Eric says:

    Christian’s obituary can be found on capecodonline.com

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