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Looking for a good book? Little Free libraries filling a need in Towson

This Little Free Library belongs to Karen Curlett who had it installed in her front yard during the spring of 2018 in memory of her husband, Chuck, who died in 2017. She lives in Ruxton at 1510 Locust Ave.
This Little Free Library belongs to Karen Curlett who had it installed in her front yard during the spring of 2018 in memory of her husband, Chuck, who died in 2017. She lives in Ruxton at 1510 Locust Ave.(Courtesy Photo)

After noticing little birdhouse-like libraries posted near Belvedere Square and spots around Towson, Cathy Brennan, of Rodgers Forge, decided she wanted to own one herself.

After ordering a wooden box from Etsy, an online shop for handmade crafts and gifts, she had it installed in her front yard and registered it online through the Little Free Library website.

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An avid reader herself, she filled her library with books from her home and, on May 4, officially opened her Little Free Library.

Brennan’s library, at 311 Murdock Road, is one of more than 100,000 Little Free Library front-yard book exchanges in 108 countries across the globe, according to the Little Free Library website. As public libraries and school libraries remain closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Little Free libraries have stood as a “beacon of hope,” according to Margret Aldrich, director of communications at Little Free Library headquarters in Hudson, Wis.

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Aldrich said the libraries have become an accessible option for book lovers.

“We’ve been hearing a lot from communities where schools and public libraries are closed that [these libraries] have been serving as a lifeline for book access,” she said. “A little library can bridge that gap for communities who don’t have any other way to [access books].”

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the organization has provided owners, or “stewards,” with guidelines on how they can safely exchange books.

“Some stewards who are in a [hotspot] for COVID-19 are choosing to temporarily close,” Aldrich said. “For folks that can stay open, we recommend they disinfect high-touch areas like the bookshelf and handle.”

Rather than exchanging books, some stewards have chosen to temporarily convert their libraries into “share boxes,” where readers can even pick up nonperishable food items and other essential items like face masks and toilet paper.

Since she opened her library, Brennan said she has noticed an increase in activity. Initially filling her library with 15 books, she said recently that 50 had been exchanged so far.

“I was surprised to see that a lot of people are using it,” she said. “Every day there is something new in there.”

To catalog her library, she uses an app called Library Thing, which lists some of her current titles, including “The Successful Child: What Parents Can Do to Help Kids Turn Out Well,” by William and Martha Sears; “Worthy Heart (Courage to Dream)” by Susan Anne Mason; “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” by Mitch Albom; and “Magical Thinking,” by Augusten Burroughs.

As suggested by Little Free Library, she has taken the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of readers.

“We wipe down the books and the library with Clorox twice a day, and we wear gloves to make sure [readers] are safe,” she said.

Like Brennan, Karen Curlett, of Ruxton, has seen an increase in activity at her Little Free Library.

After receiving a library from her son and daughter-in-law for Christmas in 2017, she had it installed in her front yard the following spring in honor of her late husband, Chuck, who was an avid reader.

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Shaped like a house, complete with shingled roof and pale yellow siding, readers can peek at the books through two small windows in the library’s doors.

In addition to a book, readers can grab a dog treat from a small wooden box on the post beneath the library.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, she said she noticed more people out walking who have stopped to look at her collection.

“I think [my library] has gotten a lot more action,” Curlett said. “I’ve seen cars and a whole family get out and take a look at what’s available.”

To ensure safe use of her library, she, too, has adhered to the safe practices suggested by Little Free Library.

“My library is far from anything, and I use Latex gloves when I put books or dog treats in,” she said.

These libraries are especially important at a time when people are searching for things to do, she added.

Kim Samele, of Rodgers Forge, came across Brennan’s library one day when she was out walking. Drawn to its green color, she said she was excited to see the library in her neighborhood.

Since its opening, she said it has brought a sense of joy and some comfort.

“The fact that we are on our devices more and more, I think it’s more important than ever to keep this sense of community and to have this little library," Samele said.

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