People stealing from Little Free Libraries, selling for profit

The Little Free Library at the corner of Broadway and Berry St. in Downtown Fort Wayne was restocked with 40 books on June 1, 2017 and by the afternoon of June 2 all of them were gone. The library's steward believes they were stolen.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – People are stealing free books from the Little Free Libraries that can be found all over Fort Wayne and they’re selling them for profits at local book stores.

There are more than 100 of the libraries. The Fort Wayne Rotary Club created the Little Free Library program in 2015 to celebrate its centennial – a small library of free books for each year of their history.

The Little Free Library depots are general mailboxes stuffed with books. Readers can take a book and swap it with another at the free-standing libraries.

“The Little Free Libraries are to promote literacy and it’s for community members that don’t have access to the resources,” said Elise Alabbas, upcoming local service chair of the Downtown Fort Wayne Rotary Club.

Alison Bauer is the steward of the Little Free Library downtown at the corner of Broadway and Berry St. She realized there were people who weren’t returning her books. One day she was at Hyde Brothers, a local used book store, and saw one of her books for sale.

“I have hundreds of books that I could put out but I don’t want to put out my hundreds of books if it’s putting money in other people’s pockets and it’s not reaching the intended audience,” she said. “Unfortunately, the almighty dollar is rearing it’s ugly head that people are finding that they can make money by taking them and then you have a local entrepreneur that can make money by buying them and selling them.”

She said she sometimes puts dozens of books in her library and just days later they’re all gone. Thursday, she restocked her library with about 40 books. By Friday afternoon, every single book was gone.

Since Bauer realized what was going on, she embosses and labels her books. She’s talked to the owner of Hyde Brothers, Sam Hyde, about some of her books being sold to him. She wants him to look out for them, discourage the seller, and return the books to her.

Bauer embosses and labels her books, in light of her finding out people are stealing them for profit.

Hyde said he doesn’t like that people are abusing the Little Free Libraries, but isn’t sure if this problem can be stopped. He said people have sold him books from dumpsters and the Allen County Public Library just to make easy profits.

“You’re not going to stop somebody who’s desperate,” he said. “And frankly I don’t open every book I see. I can’t. I look at 500 books a day. So there’s no way I can look inside every book. It’s a problem that will probably continue.”

Bauer said that won’t stop her from trying.

“I can’t turn off the people who are genuinely using it for the correct purposes,” she said.

Bauer wants to solve this mystery of who’s stealing her books. She said she’s going to find a way to make her Free Little Library work out as it’s intended, for the sake of the people that need the books the most.