Can you really steal a free book? Empty libraries get refilled

Instead of the 'Take one, leave one' approach to Little Free Libraries, some people take them all and leave nothing.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

The whole idea behind Little Free Libraries is to give away books.

But the underlying principle is "Take one, leave one." It's not "take all of them and leave nothing behind for anyone else."

Sometimes that's what happens, though. Especially in St. Paul over the past few months.

The Pioneer Press had an article this week featuring a couple – Bethany Gladhill and Patrick Rhone – who said theirs had been cleaned out a dozen times and they'd finally decided to just shut the library down for awhile.

The newspaper found it was not an isolated case and that people in several neighborhoods had commiserated online about thieves emptying Little Free Libraries.

But as the story spread, a funny thing happened. The book lovers who operate the libraries rallied around Gladhill and Rhone, bringing them a new supply of books. By Wednesday afternoon their library was lending again and the Pioneer Press had added a postscript to its story.

Where'd these things come from?

A Hudson man named Todd Bol is credited with starting the Little Free Library movement by building a model of a schoolhouse as a memorial to his mother, stocking it, and putting out a "Free Books" sign.

The idea caught on. Since 2009 the number has grown to nearly 10,000 and they're now in 48 countries, organizers say.

What's with taking them all?

It seems a long shot that the take 'em all approach to Little Free Libraries comes from people yearning to read the 20 or 30 books that typically populate one.

More likely they plan to sell them at used book stores. The Library folks know this, though, and have shared some strategies to limit it.

Using a stamp to mark the inside cover or first page as a Free Library book is enough to cause most bookstores to reject those books.

The Little Free Library Foundation has a design that can be downloaded and reads "Always a gift, never for sale."

A spokeswoman for the Half Price Books chain told the Pioneer Press theft from Little Free Libraries is "definitely something we know about," adding "We do not buy those books."

Next Up

high school football

'Scalpel approach' gives MN schools chance to keep playing sports

County infection rates are no longer the only thing that matters.

CJ-AHyggeHoliday-Photo2

With the help of HVAC, Circus Juventas will host its first holiday shows

After months of canceled classes and shows, Circus Juventas is hosting its first ever holiday show, with safety precautions.

Cameron Dantzler

Vikings send Cameron Dantzler to COVID-19/reserve list

Dantzler's placement leaves the Vikings paper-thin at cornerback heading into Green Bay.

peterson fischbach

Elections 2020 preview: 7th Congressional District

Will Collin Peterson hang on for yet another term?

Zimmer and Hunter

Zimmer explains why he called Hunter's neck injury a 'tweak'

The coach also said Dalvin Cook should return from injury this week.

magazines

60 charged in magazine scam that netted $300M

It's being called the largest elder fraud scheme in the country.

Screen Shot 2020-10-28 at 10.30.23 AM

The Star Tribune is shutting down City Pages

The free newspaper was bought by the Star Tribune in 2015.

billy's on grand

Coronavirus: Billy's on Grand will close for winter

The restaurant is among a growing list of eateries to close for the winter months.

ambulance

1 dead in early Wednesday crash on Interstate 694

The 28-year-old driver was not wearing a seatbelt, the State Patrol said.

Related

Minneapolis cops build Little Free Libraries – and keep a couple in squad cars

Minneapolis officers will have Little Free Libraries in squad cars.

Looking for a book? Google now tells you if it's at your library as an ebook

The new feature works with public library ebook systems.

Unhappy with the election? Here are 5 things you can do about it

Instead of moving to Canada or sleeping for the next four years, there are lots of things you can do to channel the post-election blues into something productive.

Minneapolis parks are getting 50 new Little Free Libraries

To celebrate, there will also be an all-day read-a-thon.

Here's how you can use all those empty gift boxes to do something good

It's a win-win all around: Do some good, declutter your house, and avoid creating more trash.

Here are the 10 most-complained-about books in libraries

Most of these books were challenged for having themes deemed inappropriate for kids.