Re-selling Little Free Library Books?

By Megan Hanson

It’s not a worldwide conspiracy or even a very smart local business. But in a half-dozen or so communities we know of, Little Libraries have been cleared of their contents and the violation of trust can affect us all. Like kids collecting returnable soda bottles a generation ago, a couple in one city has occasionally cleaned out several Little Libraries in the hope of scoring some easy money. A homeless fellow needed pocket change and took books 10 miles each day to the used bookstore. Maybe your Library has been among the victims. We could respond by installing lights and automatic alarms but that just doesn’t seem consistent with the character of this friendly enterprise.

Steward Terry Weiss of Corvallis, OR had the entire contents of her Library removed multiple times over a period of several months. In response, she put up a sign on the Little Library, stamped each book to indicate it was from a Little Free Library and approached local bookstores to explain her situation. Here is what she had to say:

“I did close the library for a week while we were away (normally I have  a neighbor keep it up for me) and put up a sign saying that I was not going to stop providing books for the kids in the neighborhood, and won’t let one bad apple spoil it for all. I opened the library on Saturday, and so far  – it’s now Wednesday – no stolen books. The sign may well have done it. I’ve been so pleased about the response of local bookstores and neighbors and friends. We now have a good supply of books, and credit at a local used book store – which will be spent on the favorite chapter books that the 8 – 10 year olds like. We have been given a very nice supply of little kids books as well. So, we’re in business and fully intend to stay that way!

“I have found a camera that can be concealed in a tree – first I have to make sure it’s not more than 30 feet away – the flash doesn’t show, even at night. It’s for hunters to photograph places where their prey might come. It takes both night and day photos, and is motion sensitive, so it will only take photos when it has been triggered. I think it won’t be easily visible, so shouldn’t be a problem for our “regular” customers. I can set it for a wide choice of time increments also.

Terry Weiss’s Little Library in Corvallis, OR

“Perhaps you could tell other people who have been hit by miscreants about these cameras. I got mine in the hunting department of a local store and it was $99. Which is significantly less than the amount of money I’ve spent on books that have been taken. It requires AA batteries and a camera memory chip, so very doable. I wouldn’t consider for a moment putting the camera on the library – totally outside the spirit and it’s the spirit that counts. We love our library and so do so many others around here. I’m so glad our regular customers can once again find books to read and love. Reading real books is far from obsolete around here, I can tell you that. ”

Half Price Books Isn’t Buying It

Half Price Books stores in Wisconsin have stepped up and instructed their employees not to purchase books taken from Little Free Libraries. In fact, it was their goodwill that inspired us to create the message “Always a Gift; Never for Sale.” Remember, there are printable book labels available on the Just For Stewards page of our website, and you may purchase a rubber stamp that can be used thousands of times to mark each book in your Library as “Always a Gift; Never For Sale.”

Half Price Books has asked us for a sign to put up at the book purchasing counter in all of their Wisconsin branches (hopefully this will spread to all national branches soon!). Here are some first drafts we’re working on: (Note: these are not approved yet. Can you think of some other messages or better wording?)

Half Price Books Fully Supports Little Free Libraries

We support libraries, big and small. That’s why we do not purchase books taken from Little Free Libraries. In fact, we like to reward the customers who give to Little Libraries instead of just taking from them.  For that reason, we offer special discounts to official Little Free Library stewards and donate books several times per year.

Do You Know Someone Trying To Sell Us Books From Little Free Libraries?

Help us spread the word: good bookstores support libraries, big and smallThat’s why we do not purchase books taken from Little Free Libraries. In fact, we like to reward the customers who give to Little Libraries instead of just taking from them. We offer special discounts to official Little Free Library stewards who buy books from us.

Let us know what you think; we would love to hear from you.

Sign Suggestions for Your Library

If you want to put up a sign to discourage Mr. or Miss Sticky Fingers, here is some wording that has been successful in the past:

  • Generosity Zone – This Little Free Library lives on the trust and generosity of little children and adults. We love the idea of sharing books with each other; giving and returning books. Each time someone takes books in order to sell them, it hurts our neighborhood. And each time someone gives a good book, it helps. Thanks!
  • Book Thieves? Before you take all these books/Know that we will be taking looks/at you and wondering why/you would ever want to make us cry/So take these books if you must/But know you’ve stolen all our trust/And we would paint your toenails puce/or cover your head with lots of orange juice/(if we could)/But we would rather not/So please pitch in and give a book/Or a crocodile will eat you…just like Captain Hook!/ Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock…
  • Dear Mr. or Ms. Book Taker – Please don’t take our books away just so you can get money. It hurts our feelings. We love them for reading and learning, and you can, too! Most book sellers we know do not want to buy from people who remove the books from Little Free Libraries. It’s kind of like stealing from everybody.
  • You Can’t Steal a Free Book – Some people think they can, so they stop by, load up with good books and try to re-sell them. If you know or see someone in the self-serving “book biz,” please talk to them. Tell them many, many people are watching this Library because we love it.

Finally, if you’re having trouble with people abusing your Little Library, contact us! We are here to support you and will help however we can.

Skip to content