Turning The Page

How the back-breaking job of packing and moving books became a noble pleasure.

May 2012

No one really enjoys boxing up books, but recently I found myself doing just that, happily, in a small duplex in Denver. I was there to help some friends, who needed to move themselves and their books. You may have helped friends move, but probably not like this, because my friends are the proud caretakers of about 30,000 volumes.

To put it mildly, it was overwhelming. I was surrounded by books, piled floor to ceiling, room after room, enough to fill a small-town library. The task made me a bit queasy, not only because of the work of it, but also because I couldn’t bear the thought of keeping all those tomes sealed away from potential readers.

Fortunately, their storage should only be temporary. This wasn’t a normal move, and this is no normal collection. My friends have been housing most of the set in their duplex and have named it the Rocky Mountain Land Library (RMLL), a vast, one-of-a-kind anthology of books about nature that’s been painstakingly compiled and curated by Denverite spouses Jeff Lee and Ann Martin over the past three decades. Their long-term plan is to set up a residential library in the mountains of Colorado—the nonprofit RMLL already hosts educational programs and visits schools—and in the near term they want to establish a kid-focused nature library in inner-city Denver. But mainly, Jeff and Ann are about real books, made of real paper, to be held by real readers who are eager to learn about nature.