by LYDIA COBB | photos by Samantha Gleaton Photography

Repurposed Reading

faces_mcdonald1At first, some people were a little confused when a repurposed rowboat with books, DVDs, and board games popped up at a home on Chestnut Ave. Welcome to the Starboard Community Library. Mike McDonald is “head librarian” and this is his vision of giving back to the town he’s loved since first surfing here in 1978. “I put up a sign to explain that it is okay to take whatever they want, whenever they want,” said Mike. “I put a light on that shines 24/7.”

Giving and swapping reading material is nothing new to Mike. He had dreamed of something like this as a kid. “It takes me a long time to read a book because of my dyslexia,” shared Mike. “My library fines were such that it was worth purchasing online and at thrift stores.” He also lives in a 300-square-foot home that he purchased in the village in 1996. Space is limited, but his desire to read is extended with this new give-and-take library.


Name: Mike McDonald
Community: Carlsbad Village
Profession: Retired; building a winery-brewery tour with vintage VW buses
Hobbies: Surfing, beach walking, reading
Favorite Local Spots: Tamarack Beach and Lola’s 7-Up Market & Deli 


faces_mcdonald2Mike bought an old rowboat for a hundred dollars. He disassembled it for sanding and lacquering, and put it back together, complete with salvaged shelving from found furniture. “I like to repurpose,” said Mike. “It’s a hippy thing and from growing up with very little money.” He grew up in Mission/Ocean and Pacific Beach areas, he put it, “as part of the latch-key kid majority.” In elementary school Mike would sneak off to ride his red Schwinn one-speed bicycle downtown for books. Later, he got a degree in economics from SDSU and worked in HR and project management in the high-tech industry, and eventually to his own consulting company supporting the staffing for sought-after engineers. Now retired, Mike is expanding a bed and breakfast and is building a winery-brewery history tour using his five vintage VW buses. He is socially adopted, he mentioned, “by people who are my grandparents’ age, and who I love and care for very much.” Mike’s house has solar panels, rainwater capture, and he composts and grows fruits and vegetables. He added, “I love sitting in a rocking chair, feeling the warmth from the fire pit on my feet and relaxing with a good book.”

Mike invites donations and visitors. There are no overdue fines here. Starboard Community Library uniquely provides community stoke, book by book.