An empty newspaper box, a pair of bolt cutters, a nice paint job, some free space in a front yard and a collection of books from a neighborhood bibliophile have together created a new feature in Old Town: its first Little Free Library.
The Little Free Library in the 500 block of Prince George Street went up the week before Christmas and since then has supplied its patrons with tomes that range from the classic -“Jane Eyre” and “Mother Goose” to the practical “Prepare for the SAT” and 365 After-School Activities.” Visitors are encouraged not only to take a book to enjoy but also bring a book to share.
“I have an addiction to books and feel compelled to share books with other people, and this seemed like an easy way to do that,” said Old Town resident Margie McCeney, who started the Little Free Library on Prince George Street. There are two other Laurel-area Little Free Libraries identified on the national website: one in Maryland City and the other in South Laurel.
McCeney was first interested in the project several years ago but thought that the prefabricated kits available from the national Little Free Library nonprofit were too expensive. She spotted an empty Gazette newspaper box along Fourth Street behind the Laurel Shopping Center that was abandoned when the Prince George’s Gazette closed in 2015. McCeney twice called the phone number listed on the box to ask permission to use it for the Little Free Library. When her calls went unreturned, she enlisted a friend with bolt cutters to simply take the newspaper box. Then McCeney’s father, the late Jim McCeney, got sick and her energies were devoted elsewhere. She finally returned to the project last summer and – one spiffy paint job later – the box went up in December.
The initial Little Free Library selection was populated with title’s from McCeney’s personal collection – she estimates she owns about 5,000 books – but since then users have made donations of their own. It’s not her first initiative to promote reading at the grassroots level. In a neighborhood with a robust Halloween trick-or-treating tradition, McCeney has carved a niche for herself by distributing children’s books to costumed kids in lieu of candy.
“I just want good books available to someone who wants one all the time,” she said.
Pressed to identify three books she would take with her if she were stranded on a deserted island, McCeney quickly made her choices: “The Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy, the Newbery Honor book “A Long Way from Chicago” by Richard Peck and the children’s classic “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey.
In fact, children’s books are a special love of McCeney’s, and she said it is possible that a second box is added to the Little Free Library – with one devoted exclusively to children’s books.
“My goal is really to encourage reading,” she said.
Lynette Greenwood, the former longtime office manager at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, was thanked for her service to the community at a Feb. 2 breakfast in her honor at Denny’s Restaurant. Old Town resident Ruth Walls, who heads the Patrons for Peace Project, organized the gathering, which included a number of former LARS clients.
“She has such a lovely disposition,” Walls said, of Greenwood. “She has a beautiful smile and was so kind to everybody who came into LARS.”
Registration is open now for the fourth annual Spring into Summer 5K to benefit LARS on Saturday, May 5, at 8 am. The event features a 5K-race and one-mile fun walk through Old Town, beginning near McCullough Field and Emancipation Community Park at the corner of 8th Street and Laurel Avenue. Registration is $30 and can be completed online at laureladvocacy.org