CEDAR RAPIDS — Little Free Libraries are popping up around the world like tulips in spring. So, it was probably only a matter of time before one was illegally picked and carried away.
"I was sick, I couldn’t believe it," says Nancy Easley, assistant librarian at the Marion Public Library and steward of the Little Free Library at Thomas Park. "This is the only one in the United States that’s ever been stolen."
But, like a book with a happy ending, the red dollhouse-sized library has been found. It was to be reinstalled this week.
That’s good news says Jane Walter who, with husband, Gene, installed the first registered Little Free Library in Cedar Rapids in front of their home at 2127 O Ave. NW.
"If we’d have any vandalism, we’d rebuild it and put it right back up," Jane says.
Little Free Libraries, the brainchild of a Wisconsin man who put one up in 2010 in memory of his mother, offer free books. The stewards stock them with contemporary books. Each library holds a dozen or more books, includes the sign "Take a book, Return a book," and is registered on the website, www.littlefreelibrary.org. The proposal to get 2,510 of them installed around the world to outnumber Carnegie libraries has easily been exceeded — the Walters’ little library, put up this fall, is No. 4,163.
"I’ve always read," says Jane, 64, who grew up near Parnell. "We lived on a farm. On Saturday we went to town, I’d go to the library and take six books home."
"I want a magazine to hold," adds Gene, 65.
Gene, a carpenter and handyman all his life, collects reusable materials, much of it from Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. He spent the summer building the library for his wife of 45 years.
"I got my Little Free Library," says Jane with a big smile.
Standing along a sidewalk a few steps from the front door, the library has become more popular than they imagined. People of all ages take books, chat, leave bags of books at the door, even write thank-you notes.
In Marion, Nancy knew the Little Free Library at Thomas Park was popular as she restocked it periodically. She’d just done so a few days before Dec. 5 when a caller said it was missing. Information on Facebook brought another call Dec. 8 — "I know where your library is."
Jo Pearson, assistant director, went with police to recover it from a home where the owner said he found it discarded in a ditch.
In surprisingly good shape, except for missing parts including decorative owls which builder Richard Hill has replaced, the Little Free Library will soon be home.
And, as these libraries continue, Nancy and the Walters are always looking for more children’s books. You know, stories with happy endings.