For the love of books

You don’t have to be a member or pay a penny to pick up a book at this little curbside lending library in front of Dorothy Erwin’s house, located at 221 Third Street. You just have to like to read.

That was the inspiration behind the little red schoolhouse-styled bookcase, that urges passersby to “Take a Book, Leave a Book.”

“I just love to read,” said Erwin. “In these economic times, books are expensive. I had books I had read, but didn’t want to keep. One day, I saw a picture of a free library on Pinterest and I thought, ‘Oh, my, that’s what I’d like to do.’”

When Erwin’s daughter and son-in-law, Brenda and Randy Elliott of Arnett, Oklahoma, asked what she wanted for Christmas this year, she knew exactly what to ask for. “They like to make things, so I told them what my idea was, and they made it for me,” she said.

The impromptu library got a big boost when Randy’s mother passed away, and the couple cleaned out her house. “She had a lot of books, and suddenly, I had more books than I knew what to do with,” Erwin said, adding that since then, she’s managed to compile a collection that includes books for kids, for both men and women, and even some religious books.

She invites anyone who likes to read to stop by. “Come by and see if there’s anything you want. When you’re through with the book, bring it back or keep it. If you have a book you’d like to share, put it in there.”

This “little free library” of Erwin’s is part of worldwide movement to offer free books housed in small containers to members of a local community. It started in 2009, when a Wisconsin man built a little, free library to honor his late mother, who loved books. The libraries tend to make people happy as evidenced by the reaction of Gabriel Brown when he happened on Erwin’s library Wednesday morning. He talked to Erwin for a while and told her that it had made him smile on a day when he had started out in a grumpy mood. She asked him if he liked to read, and he replied, “Yes, I come from a family of readers.”

Thinking ahead about keeping her library going, Erwin has even made provisions for damp weather. She plans to purchase a tarp that she can spread over the library when damp weather threatens. She has also installed a light inside, which is meant to keep moisture from gathering and damaging the books, and to provide a little illumination for after-hours readers, eager to find a new book to dive into.

She didn’t say it, but she might have: “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

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