Helpers restock looted free libraries

Somebody stripped books from boxes; plenty more came in

Published:

 

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — After somebody violated the spirit of two Little Free Libraries in Salem, taking most of the books instead of just one, neighbors and volunteers rushed to restock.

The Little Free Libraries are part of a movement originating a few years ago in Wisconsin. The libraries are boxes that look like birdhouses on poles. People called stewards put the libraries in their yards, stocked with books. Passers-by take a volume, replace it with another or return it.

In Salem this month, one of the seven libraries in town was cleaned out, another stripped of most volumes, including the guest book where patrons make notes about their reading.

But the shelves didn't remain empty for long.

Four boxes of books showed up on Ben Light's doorstep. Now his small library can't hold any more books, and the extras will go into a reserve, in case there's another mass withdrawal.

"This wasn't the way it was supposed to work," he said, "but at least the books are out there, and in theory someone is reading them, and to us that is a success."

Rick Brooks, the co-founder of the international Little Free Library movement that began in Hudson, Wis., told the paper that as many as 15,000 miniature libraries span 54 countries.

Stewards can stamp books with the phrase "Always a gift, never for sale" to discourage those who want to turn a profit, he said.

"The most popular question is, 'Won't people steal the books?'" he said. "And the answer is, you can't steal a free book."