PORTLAND, Ore. – A visitor to the Timbers Army Fanladen, located on SW Alder mere blocks from Providence Park, would immediately be struck by the memorabilia that line the place's rear walls: a Men in Blazers jacket, autographed game balls, trophies, vintage photographs from the Portland Timbers’ early days.
That visitor, though, would doubtless walk right past the bookshelves that line the street-facing window near the door that house the Booked! Library.
Those bookshelves, however, are both a rarity and a treasure. In total, they contain upwards of 300 books about the game. These books, some of which are rare, out-of-print, or simply unavailable for purchase in the United States, are available to read at no charge to any member of the 107 Independent Supporters Trust—the organizing structure upholding the famous supporters group.
This humble little library—which began in 2014 with approximately 50 titles and which sometimes calls itself the “loudest library in the world,”—could well be the largest supporter-run library of soccer-related books in world soccer United States and perhaps the world (you can digitally browse the entire collection of titles here), dwarfing the collections of similar titles available through more traditional bookstores and libraries.
But the Booked! Library exists only because of the perseverance and dedication of a small contingent of enthusiastic Timbers fans who gather monthly at the Fanladen.
“It started with a Twitter conversation between myself and a bunch of other people who were a bit book nerdish,” explained one of Booked!'s founders, Todd Diskin. “We were just talking about great soccer books that are out there and what people were reading and it just kind of was like, 'Well, what if we had a library? What if we started collecting books from the fans and started to have a lending library?'”
Since first opening the library in 2014, Diskin has been continuously amazed by the response from the fan community, which has donated hundreds more titles to the library and engaged with the books in ways that Diskin never imagined possible.
“We never thought we would actually need another bookshelf,” he said. “At that time  it was one shelf.”
These days, the shelves have grown quite a bit larger. At the group's most recent meeting in November, Diskin and the other members discussed the possibility of adding a fourth bookshelf to hold the many books that were still sitting in boxes behind the Fanladen bar.
This past year, the library also began hosting special author events at the Fanladen. In March, around 50 Timbers fans crammed into the tiny Timbers Army space for a special video Q&A with journalist Bill Buford, the author of the seminal book on English supporters in the 1980s, Among the Thugs: The Experience, and the Seduction, of Crowd Violence. In August, author Gwendolyn Oxenham paid a visit to discuss her latest book, Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer.
Events like these, along with the regular book clubs that the group has been hosting since Fall 2014, help further Booked!'s stated mission to expand knowledge of the game among Portland's soccer fans.
“We really believe that it's important for people to get educated about the sport,” explained Diskin. “It's [about] really getting people to experience soccer in as many ways as possible so they become smarter supporters.”
Booked! has also worked tirelessly to expand educational opportunity and increase childhood literacy for the neediest members of the Portland community.
As part of this second mission, Booked! has sponsored book drives and worked with the Portland Children's Book Bank to refurbish donated books so that children can have access to books that look and feel new.
This December, Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri will appeared at one of these events, chipping in at the Book Bank to help bind and clean donated books alongside volunteers from the 107ist.
When Booked! first announced the event through the 107ist e-mail list in early November, all 50 volunteer spots were filled within an hour.
In one hour we've exceeded the number of participants we've ever had for a book cleaning session. Glad we bumped attendance to 50! #RCTID— BOOKED! Library (@Booked107) November 3, 2016
Yet as impressive as these numbers are, they belie the passion and humility at the heart of the group's success.
At last month's meeting, as members of the group buzzed around the Fanladen taking inventory and discussing donations, it was difficult to imagine another supporters group more deeply committed to soccer, books, and literacy.
As another member of the group, Wendy Berner, put it: “We do a lot of stuff pretty quietly.”
Quite an accomplishment for the loudest library in the world.
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The Booked! members suggested a small list of titles for fans to consider either as gifts or for personal enjoyment this holiday season:
Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football, Jonathan Wilson
Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World, Raphael Honigstein
Tor!: The Story of German Football, Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger
Eight World Cups: My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer, George Vecsey
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy, Joe McGinniss
The Boys from Little Mexico: A Season Chasing the American Dream, Steve Wilson (Note: this title is Booked!'s book club selection for the month of January)