This happened in the North Clairemont neighborhood in San Diego, but it could have happened just about anywhere in 100 countries worldwide.
Five years ago a nice lady, Mary Williamson (pictured), and her husband built and installed a free little community library in their front yard, similar to these:
The idea is simple.
You install the little library, stock it with books, and anyone is welcome to take one – for free. Patrons are encouraged to “take a book, and return a book.”
No fines, no fees, just take a book, and leave a replacement.
It’s such a nice thing to do. It’s neighborly. It encourages a sense of community – people who love to read stop and browse, and meet other like-minded people who do the same.
And it encourages people of all ages to read.
Library hosts have fun with their little libraries. Sometimes the libraries are mobile:
And this host went all out, replicating their own home right down to the Halloween decorations on the front porch:
So, what’s not to like?
On a Friday afternoon in mid-November, Mary Williamson’s husband saw a man at their little library. The man was emptying the almost 40 books out of the library and into a box.
“My husband came out and the guy threw the book box that he had of our books into his car, and his wife and he got away,” Williamson said.
And it gets worse: This is the “third time in as many months the library has been emptied.”
“‘They had a whole car of books, so they’re clearly selling them on eBay, or a flea market,’ Williamson said. ‘They’re making money off these free community libraries.’”
This cloud did have the proverbial silver lining:
Generous neighbors were restocking the little community library, and Williamson said it would be up and running in a few days.
But that silver lining has another cloud:
Now, after three robberies in three months, the Williamsons “are thinking about adding surveillance cameras and a lock,” and that’s sad.
It’s surely understandable, but – a lock defeats the spirit of the little library. That spirit is welcoming – it says, “Open the door. Take a book. Read. Enjoy. Come again.”
The spirit of little community libraries appears to have started in 2009, when Todd Bol of Hudson, WI built a model of a one-room schoolhouse (pictured). It was a tribute to his mother; she was a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.
Bol and another Wisconsin resident, Rick Brooks, agreed that they’d like to see the little library idea spread, and they formed Little Free Library “to share good books and bring communities together.” By the end of 2012 there were more than 4,000 Little Free Libraries; in 2020 they “surpassed 100,000 registered Libraries in more than 100 countries worldwide,” according to LittleFreeLibrary.org.
But you don’t have to be a registered member of Little Free Library to start one – there are lots of people like the Williamsons who build their own. And if do-it-yourself isn’t your thing, no worries – there are plenty of online options available.
If a little library is registered with LittleFreeLibrary.org, the host has the option of the location appearing on a map:
When you click on a location, the address of the Little Library may be displayed:
A great idea, if you’re looking for a Little Free Library.
Unfortunately, also a great idea if you’re thinking of robbing a Little Free Library.
And if a little library’s address isn’t available, like the Williamsons’, all thieves have to do is drive around and they’ll find them.
Like they did three times in three months, at the Williamson house.
To the two thieves – to all thieves – who steal from little community libraries, I say this:
First, you are assholes.