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Kirkland woman's little free library unites community after being stolen
In an area of the Finn Hill neighborhood, neighbors and children can walk through the residential streets and stumble upon an outdoor library. Books are showcased in two refurbished newspaper bins with a small chair nearby. The books are free and are meant to be borrowed.
But on March 10, after Midge Markey had settled in for the night, her Little Free Library was stolen entirely.
“My neighbor heard a truck sometime between 8:30-10 p.m. and something being loaded,” said Markey. “Turns out, it was my library. All that work, love, joy all gone.”
Little Free Library is an international movement meant to inspire reading in the community. Owners simply build or create a place to house the books, register with littlefreelibrary.org and provide books. Upon registration, the library can be pin-pointed on a map.
Washington currently has about 95 Little Free Libraries.
Markey heard about the movement a year-and-a-half ago on Facebook and thought the idea was “lovely.” Finally around the last week of January, Markey deemed it time.
“I sent out emails to the Times, the Seattle Weekly and USA Today, everybody, and asked if they had any old boxes and a gentleman at the Times said ‘yeah,’” Markey said of Mike Hewitt, an employee with the newspaper. “He gave it to me for free.”
Markey primed, painted, sealed gaps and waterproofed the orange newspaper bin. She put a guestbook, a pen and a flashlight inside with a few books. What warmed her heart most was hearing her 5-year-old son Wyatt, who has developmental delays, ask to contribute his books.
“He was the first to contribute books,” Markey said. “He went and got a bunch of books and handed them to me. I thought ‘that’s my baby.’”
For about four days, Markey said people weren’t quite sure what to make of the newspaper bin filled with free books, but then families caught on and “fell in love.”
By the third week, the number of books had tripled by contributing neighbors.
So when Markey found out it had been stolen six weeks later, neighbors who had grown as fond as she were disheartened.
“I had all these people stopping me and say ‘How do I get this? How can I help?’” she said, noting one woman had donated a large bin of books.
Miraculously, three days later Markey received an email from the Little Free Library organization stating they received a call from the Kenmore Police Department.
Officers had found her library.
“It seemed like it was a prank because the Kenmore police got a phone call from a guy that said there was something weird in the back of his truck,” Markey said. “It’s got to be teenage boys. It’s a prank that only they would find amusing.”
According to the Markeys, the neighbor stated this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened in his neighborhood. A while back, apparently a neighbor’s 6-foot nutcracker was taken from a front porch and put in the back of a pickup truck.
Markey, delighted she would get her library back, now wondered how she was going to operate two little free libraries. Hewitt had been very helpful, yet again, and was able to provide a second newspaper bin.
Midge created a second library and now her neighborhood can enjoy adult books as well as children books, but exclaims this time she’ll chain them up.
“People I’ve never met before come by and say ‘hi,’” she said. “It’s become meaningful and important to the neighborhood. That’s the loveliest thing.”