Name: Trevor Slayton
Occupation: Regional Planning Agency Planning Technician
Trevor Slayton loves books. Consuming at least two pieces of literature a week every week has taught him just how valuable books can be-and now, thanks to his efforts, Chattanoogans will be able to enjoy a good read by just walking down the street. Over a two-week period, Slayton developed the idea of putting up four mini neighborhood libraries in high foot traffic areas of North Chattanooga, making valuable contacts and securing donated land and materials for the little libraries which will be posted over the two months.
-These little free libraries can hold up to 40-50 books each, and the whole system is built on taking a book and bringing a book. I'm hoping people naturally get acclimated to sharing. It's what they're built for. It's to get people used to the idea of sharing books-books that they like, not their grandfather's engineering manual. The books that they read and love, they'll say, 'I want someone else to have this.' I trust in the kindness of people in this community. I don't think these will ever be empty. But if the libraries in communities start to get emptied, that's a sign of their success. You know people are reading.
-People say, 'Well, what if someone comes and steals all your books?' The thing is, the books are free. All of the libraries are going to have a stamp and some ink inside them and the stamp says, 'Always a gift, never for sale.' We're going to stamp the inside of the books with that or people who bring books can stamp them, so that way if somebody takes a book and tries to sell it, a bookseller will recognize that this isn't something they should be trying to sell. It's all an honor system. It's all basically trusting in the people who come there to pick out the book.
-What this project taught me a lot about is how hard it is to change something. When I initially approached people about these libraries, they would say, 'Well, what about sex predators? What about vandalism? What about mold?' And whenever I approached anybody, there was this huge backlash. While I appreciated the input, it sort of reminded me of what Woodrow Wilson said-"If you ever want to make enemies, try to change something."
-I graduated college with a creative writing major. That's when I started getting hooked on reading. Ever since then, I probably read 2-3 books a week. I love reading. There's just so much to learn out there. One of the greatest things about this project is when I started it, I was sort of in a low place and I realized that I was hanging on to all of this negativity. I was reading Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth one day and he talks about the dragon in Western mythology. The dragon will hoard gold, virgins and all sorts of stuff that the dragon can't use. He just sits on it. And I realized that when I was starting this project, that I was sort of doing that and I needed to reach out to people and start doing something I can use and stop being this dragon just holding on to all this stuff. That's where the idea of sharing the books came from.
-I realized I had to make a conscious choice to do something. In that day, I contacted Elaine and Charles McAfee, and they volunteered to share their undeveloped lot on Dallas and Curve. That library will be used to especially give kids walking from Normal Park and CCA access to these libraries. I talked with Evelyn Snorton, facility manager at North Chattanooga Recreation Center, and she was generous enough to give us a space in front of their property. Then I talked to CVS pharmacist Tom Rawls and he came up with the idea of making a little library as a memorial for recently deceased Dr. David McCallie on Dorchester and Hixson Pike. I'm really honored to be able to celebrate somebody's life by using one of these little libraries. It wasn't anything I would have ever expected but it's something that I'm really honored to participate in. I contacted other people who were equally as generous with sharing land and offering free books, and then Home Depot volunteered to build four of these for us. It was just a miracle.
-When I initially pitched the idea to people, they thought I was crazy. But in the course of two weeks the whole community rallied around this idea. At one time I couldn't give these things away. But any rejection I'd had was changed in two weeks, and this became a reality. I want to do more projects, and I realize now that I can. All I did was make phone calls, write letters, send emails. Everyone else ran with this idea. All I did was talk to people.
-The ultimate goal is getting people to read and to share books, and to build a sense of community. Trying to wrap my mind around tough issues is something I do with books, and I don't think that television does a good job of helping us wrap our minds around things. With commercial breaks and Internet where everything is just a click away, it's almost like you're driven to change the channel or click the mouse, and you're not really in control. You hear about people who have Internet addiction ... I've never met anyone who has literature addiction.
-When you want to read, you consciously go to a place that is conducive to doing that. Books sort of represent that source of recreation and entertainment that you have to consciously choose to pursue and that sometimes you have to go to that quiet place to enjoy. And even if you're alone reading a book, you're not alone reading a book because you're learning from this person who has written this stuff down for you. C.S. Lewis put it best. He said, 'We read to know we're not alone.' And that sort of sums it up. I want people to be able to read to know they're not alone.