Some residents of New Castle County really like doing things by the book.
A handful of cautious residents were concerned that the darling book exchange boxes in their neighborhoods might not be permitted by law. Now those queries have spawned a new ordinance and a free giveaway to provide more neighborhoods in the county with their own “little free libraries.”
District 2 Council Member Dee Durham says Ordinance 20-038 was prompted by recent inquiries from residents asking about the legal status and requirements of the pop-up bookstands.
“As we looked into it, we found that the code doesn’t say anything one way or the other. So, the idea behind the ordinance was just to say they are indeed legal and welcome. And we hoped that by doing the ordinance we would actually foster them to be put in new places,” she said.
To celebrate the new regulations clarifying that community book exchange boxes are indeed allowed, Councilwoman Durham and NCC County Council President Karen Hartley Nagel are giving away two new Little Free Libraries to two lucky developments in the Second District.
The Little Free Library organization is the world’s largest creator of those small wooden book-sharing boxes that you can find in parks, community open spaces or in front of homes. Anyone can take a book or give a book.
“It’s really a great opportunity to celebrate the love of books and reading, and building strong communities, especially during the extraordinary times we’ve all experienced these last few months,” said Durham.
Twelve north Wilmington developments have already applied to score one of the free libraries offered by Durham and Nagel, including Rock Manor, McDaniel Crest, Perth, Carlton, Bracax, Liftwood Estates, Cardiff, Foulk Wood Estates, Devonshire and Fairfax Estates.
The deadline is August 1 and winners will be selected through a random drawing.
“I had a little bit of money leftover in my fiscal year ‘20 budget. So, I thought, well, that’d be cool to go along with the ordinance and help us raise awareness about them,” said Durham.
Durham says creative community projects that popped up in communities during the early weeks of the quarantine also inspired the book box giveaway. “Two months ago, everyone was really hunkered down with COVID. And I saw that a lot of neighborhoods were doing really cool community things together. And so that was the other kind of impetus behind it.”
Durham originally thought of making the free book boxes a reward to District 2 communities who came up with the most clever projects for their neighbors during the stay-at-home season. But she ultimately decided the fairest solution was to offer a random drawing to avoid choosing among neighbors.
The Little Free Library that NCC District 2 is giving away comes fully assembled with a waterproof roof, glass doors and ready for painting, staining or decorating. The library mounting post is not included.
Applicants will be required to answer a few questions and ensure that a resident will be responsible for maintaining the Little Free Library in their community.
Nearly 200 books each year move through 11-year-old Ellie Ray’s outdoor library in Chalfonte. Her grandfather created and installed the book exchange box two years for Ellie’s 8th birthday. Then Ellie registered it as an official library with Little Free Libraries.
Ellie cleans each newly dropped off book and stamps them with her own library stamp.
Since the onset of Covid in March, Ellie has taken new books to her garage, where she lets them sit for two weeks to reduce the chance of the spread of the disease.
On our visit, Ellie’s family learned that the Dr. Seuss classics “Are You My Mother” and “Green Eggs and Ham” recently had been dropped off. She doesn’t expect those to stick around for long.
“Ellie’s book exchange box is a great point of interest in our neighborhood,” said neighbor Eileen Taylor. “We love taking a peek inside to see what new books have been shared. My grandchildren always find something good to read!”