According to at least four Austin residents, one man has not been playing by the rules of neighborhood Little Free Libraries. The man is said to have been emptying the book trade depositories throughout the city. The libraries, which often look like roomy birdhouses, are posted like mailboxes on front lawns. The idea is to encourage book sharing among neighbors. Passersby are encouraged to “take a book, return a book.”
“It’s very disturbing,” said Jenny Hodgkins, who lives on Crestwood Road off Airport Boulevard and runs a Little Free Library. “We come home and the doors are open…and it’s just completely empty.”
While the Austin Police Department has one complaint on file, Detective Robert Burnham said the case will be closed by Wednesday. Not because the suspect’s been caught, but because there’s no real crime to prosecute.
“I got a crook that found a loophole,” said Burnham. “You have a sign out there that says ‘free books,’ and somebody’s taking advantage of your kindness.”
Still, some residents have not been disheartened. They believe the man has been selling these books. So, Hodgkins bought a Little Free Library stamp online and has begun stamping every book that goes into her library. They reached out to local used book stores, asking them not to buy stamped books.
“Lately, we’ve not been taking anything with Little Free Library stamps,” said Drew Miller, a manager at Half Price Books on North Lamar. “But that’s really the most we can do, besides if someone comes in and they’re the confirmed stealer of these books.”