Our Reading Lives

My Little Free Library Has Been VIOLATED

Our Reading Lives features stories about how books and reading have shaped who we are and how we live.

It’s a normal summer day in Washington, DC. The sun is shining, and it’s hot but not as hot as it’s been. I come strolling out my front door and down my walk, thinking that today is like any other day. I turn the corner outside the gate of my house and stop.

Dead in my tracks.

The sight in front of me is horrifying. It’s devastating. I’m paralyzed by the shock of the sight.

MY LITTLE FREE LIBRARY HAS BEEN RAVAGED.

Little Free Library

My library holds about 30 books. That’s a lot, but it getting cleaned out happens more often than you’d think. Not by one person, definitely, but it’s normal on a nice day for 20–30 books to get taken. It’s a high foot traffic area, and most of my neighbors are readers. I actually love it when this happens—it says to me that my neighbors enjoy using it and like the books I’m putting in, as well as the ones that are being donated. It’s a vibrant little library with a community around it that’s very active.

So how did I know this wasn’t just any random occurrence, with a lot of people just coming by and taking books? Well, because I’d checked on the library about an hour before and it had been full. Now? I look and I see there are roughly 20 fewer books than there had been before and the thing really looks like it’s endured the zombie apocalypse (if the zombies ate books).

Also?

THE PERSON STOLE MY BOOKENDS.

(deep breaths)

This type of thing is, sadly, more common than you’d expect. I’ve read multiple posts and heard some sad stories about Little Free Libraries getting raided and having their books sold at used bookstores and such. I’ve even heard some REALLY sad stories about the libraries themselves being stolen. I’m glad that this is the first (and hopefully only) time this has happened to my library, but it’s really frustrating. I can’t help but feel that my library was violated and the person who did this disrespected not only me and my library, but the neighborhood that has come together to use it regularly and keep it stocked with awesome books.

One thing I started doing a month ago (and I’m very glad of now) is that I ordered a custom stamp for my library and started stamping the books I put out. It doesn’t require that the person return the book (and honestly, I don’t care whether they do or not), but it does tell a used bookstore or library that they really shouldn’t be buying that book or accepting it for donation. And I hope that if something like this happens, they’ll make their way back to me eventually.

(I purchased the stamp off Etsy from TailorMadeStamps. They were easy to work with and did a pretty awesome job in not much time!)

Library Stamp

And yes, I blurred out my address in the picture—it’s not that I don’t trust you all with my address, but I don’t want you lovelies showing up at my house and creeping me out!

I also went out and bought new bookends, identical to the original ones, but white this time so I could write on them with a Sharpie, “Do not take me. SHAAAAAMMMMEEEE.”

I’ve considered other measures, such as a camera, but really that just defeats the entire purpose of the library because it’s built on trust. Yes, some people will abuse it, and that’s just sucky, but it’s also how it goes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some book stamping to do.