Thieves tar­get Lit­tle Free Li­braries

Lo­cals un­sure how to pre­vent the pil­fer­ing from re­oc­cur­ring

Bayview Post - - News -

Lo­cal res­i­dent Michelle Flax set up her Lit­tle Free Li­brary (LFL), a rus­tic wooden box hous­ing used books for free pe­rusal, three years ago on her front lawn around York Mills Road and Les­lie Street. Since then, she’s en­joyed be­ing able to share great works of lit­er­a­ture with her neigh­bours. But re­cently, she’s found those books pil­fered overnight.

“Over the past three or four months, the lit­tle li­brary has been com­pletely emp­tied,” said Flax. “This has hap­pened about five or six times. Some­body just put new books in a few weeks ago, and it got emp­tied again. It didn’t hap­pen be­fore.”

The Lit­tle Free Li­brary, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based out of Wis­con­sin, sells li­brary kits, which cost from $90 to over $1,000, as well as a range of ac­ces­sories for com­mu­nity-minded book lovers (known as “stew­ards” in LFL par­lance). For the most part, these li­braries are set up based on an hon­our sys­tem: neigh­bours un­load used books, and peo­ple can take a book to read, return it or re­place it. How­ever, book thieves tak­ing all the books at once, though un­com­mon, isn’t un­heard of.

Sean Evans, an LFL stew­ard, no­ticed a change when he moved and re­lo­cated his li­brary from his old house, on Christie Street and St. Clair Av­enue West, just a few streets east to Av­enue Road.

“In our [old] neigh­bour­hood, we rarely had a com­pletely empty li­brary,” said Evans. “There was al­ways a good flow. But there have been many times in the past year that I will come out and it will be empty. Why, I can’t haz­ard a guess or spec­u­late. But they do dis­ap­pear.”

Toronto has more than 50 LFLs, ac­cord­ing to a map on the of­fi­cial LFL web­site. YORK MILLS RD. Mar­gret Aldrich, the au­thor of

and mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist at the LFL, rec­om­mends stamp­ing the book to let peo­ple know where it came from. She also sug­gested alert­ing all lo­cal used book­stores where a book thief might try to re­sell them and en­list­ing neigh­bours to keep an eye out for sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity around the li­braries.

Terry Gro­gan, man­ager of BMV Books, a used book store at Yonge Street and Eglin­ton Av­enue, said em­ploy­ees do try to watch out for sus­pi­cious sell­ers.

How­ever, Gro­gan noted that, whereas stamp­ing the first page of a book might help, there may not be a fool­proof way to safe­guard used books from theft.

“Once you put it out there, you don’t get to pick and choose who gets to take the books, right?”

Michelle Flax in front of her Lit­tle Free Li­brary on Den­low Boule­vard

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