The Brautigan Library is the embodiment of a fictional library described in Richard Brautigan's 1971 novel, What made Brautigan's fictional library compelling is that it only accepted unpublished books. Nothing published was allowed. Ordinary people brought in their life chronicles at all hours of the day and night to donate them to the library's collection. The librarian was always there to accept them. He lived in a room in the back.
Brautigan's library came to life in 1990 when Todd Lockwood and a group of like-minded visionaries set out to make the library a real place in Burlington, Vermont. The Brautigan Library, as it is known, opened in a space formerly occupied by a used bookstore on April 21, 1990. The national news media took notice, and manuscripts began arriving from all over the country. And so did readers.
The modest library became a destination for Brautigan fans and writers. Walk-ins from out-of-state were not uncommon. The media coverage went world-wide. The library was featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, London Times, BBC, NPR and dozens of other news outlets. It has gone on like this for years. The story never gets old.
The library was staffed entirely by volunteers. Many of our librarians are writers themselves. The library developed its own method of book classification, known as The Mayonnaise System.
The books are organized under thirteen subject
categories, and mayonnaise jars are used as
In 1996, The Brautigan Libary moved from its
original location to the main public library in
Burlington, The Fletcher Free Library. The books
were set up in a separate area, away from the
published books. The furnishings from the original
library came along as well, including reading chairs
and memorabilia. The Brautigan Library remained
at the Fletcher for ten years.
From 2007 to 2010, the books were in storage while a future location was sought.
In 2010, The Brautigan Library reopened in Vancouver, Washington, where students from Washington State University, under the direction of John Barber, have given the library a new life. Barber is a Richard Brautigan scholar. The Library is housed at the Clark County Historical Society Museum in Vancouver, in the very area where Richard Brautigan grew up.
Mayonnaise jar woodcut by Dean Bornstein. Library entrance illustration by Genevieve Jacobs. Brautigan Library sign conceived by Todd Lockwood.