It was more than a year ago when New Castle County Council member Dee Durham was first asked by residents if “neighborhood book exchange boxes” were legal.
They weren’t. Probably. As outside storage of household items, they could be a code violation.
So in April, she introduced an ordinance to legalize them.
And Friday she led a ceremony giving away 15.
That resolution made New Castle County the first in the country to formally legalize them, Chris Counihan, Durham’s legislative aide, said he was told by the nonprofit Little Free Library, the biggest organization in the growing movement, also known as book sharing devices.
Durham in July planned to give away just two, but with the sponsorship of New Castle County Council, Friday’s giveaway went to every community that applied: Brack-Ex, Brandywood, Cardiff, Chapelcroft, Devon/Devonshire, Drummond Hill/Drummond Ridge, Fairfax, Fairthorne, Foulk Woods, Liftwood, McDaniel Crest, Perth, Shipley Chase and Tarleton.
Jerry Noack, representing Foulk Woods, said the library will add to the neighborhood’s reputation as the “best in Brandywine Hundred” for its food drives, parades and other community events.
Paula Staino and Susan Sherk are neighbors and walking companions who shepherded the application from Fairthorne. “We have a perfect place where everyone could use it,” Sherk said, noting that installation still needs approval by its homeowners association.
“We want to encourage everyone to read,” said Billur T. Dowse of McDaniel Heights, adding that her neighborhood hopes to categorize books by age groups.
And there could be more little libraries. “We are open to going to other areas if there’s interest,” said County Executive Matt Meyer. “If you can’t go the library, the library will come to you.”
Today’s ceremony was held in a pavilion at Talley Day Park, not many steps from the Brandywine Hundred Library, now shuttered to the public and offering reference assistance by phone and curbside pickup of reserved items.
When he first heard about the movement, Counihan said that he saw only a handful in New Castle County on a map maintained by Little Free Library. Today the map shows more than 30 registered little libraries in the county.
The movement, of course, encourages reading, and officials hope that it also functions as another “cool community thing” to strengthen neighborhoods while residents are hunkered down.
“Put a book in,” said Karen Hartley-Nagle, County Council president, “and take a book out.”