Adirondack chairs adorn the white sand near a firepit. Water trickles nearby, and a radio plays staticky music. Hundreds of books pack eight bookshelves, from romance and sci-fi to political commentary to sheet music for Hootie and the Blowfish. Welcome to Gary Solomon’s front yard.
Deep in the east part of the valley, on Hollywood Boulevard near Stewart, Solomon set up a free outdoor library on his property. “I just had the idea of putting a bookcase out there and seeing how people go with it,” says Solomon, a retired CSN psychology professor.
However, this library isn’t about lending, but taking. If you stroll up and spot a book you want, take it home. No questions asked.
“This is something people truly appreciate,” he says. “This isn’t just a library, rather it’s, Gosh, somebody’s gonna do something for me? For free?”
In November, he put a lone bookcase with about 100 books in his driveway, intending to give them away. Shortly after, someone left a box of books. Then it happened again. And again. All of them adding to his library.
“People have boxes of books in their house,” he says. “And they don’t wanna throw ’em away, and they can’t probably give them away, but I’m prepared to take them and put them on my property and give it my best shot.”
As the number of books expanded, so did his vision for the library. He created a path connecting the shelves to the chairs, in case you can’t wait to get home to read. He installed a water feature, with a bridge. A working piano sits along the deck, with a beyond-repair wooden organ near the firepit, for aesthetics. Lights are set up to allow night reading. He says some appreciative fans volunteer to help maintain the library by ensuring neatness or even making minor repairs to the furniture.
He just has one rule: “You can take a book, you can leave a book, but you can’t spend any money here.”