HARPSWELL — Libraries have a long tradition of granting free access to reading material, but now Harpswell residents no longer have to set foot in one to borrow books.
Last week, Devil’s Back Trail in Orr’s Island got a Little Free Library, a small, freestanding structure provided by a nonprofit of the same name that allows people to take and leave books free of charge in public places.
Harpswell’s Recycling & Transfer station also has a new robot-shaped Little Free Library, which Gina Perow, the director of Harpswell Recreation, said is “just waiting for the finishing touches.” She said putting a Little Free Library in that location will be especially good, because it’s such a highly utilized spot for the community.
Perow said Hazel Onsrud, a librarian at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, asked if Perow would be interested in starting a Little Free Library at the Orr’s Island location.
“I met with the rec committee and talked it over, and Devil’s Back (seemed like a good place),” Perow said. “Those trails are really kid-friendly which is really nice, they’re only a mile loop and they’re not terribly steep.”
The Little Free Library is also in the trail’s parking lot, so those interested do not have to hike to reach it.
Perow said the kiosk came stocked with books, to which she added a few Harpswell guides. The donated books are not owned by a library, so they do not have to be returned.
“There’s a good selection of both adult and youth books in there currently, so people can take a book and they can keep it if they want to,” she said. “If they want to return it, they can return it to any Little Library. It doesn’t have to be returned back to the one that it came from.”
Perow said she was “really surprised and excited” to learn how Little Free Libraries work, adding the flexible rules are helpful because there are several in Brunswick, too. She will restock the Little Free Library at Orr’s Island as needed.
Perow thinks the initiative is a good way to get books out to the community, though Harpswell is “fortunate” to have multiple other literary sources. In addition to Curtis Memorial Library nearby in Brunswick, there are two libraries in town: the Cundy’s Harbor Library and the Orr’s Island Library.
The seasonal Harpswell Neck Library, which was housed where Harpswell Coastal Academy is now located, has had problems in recent years finding a permanent home.
Perow said the community response to the Little Free Library has been enthusiastic, with Harpswell Recreation’s Facebook post about it last week generating a lot of web traffic.
Some people have even asked if they can drop books off at the town office for Perow to replenish the repository when the time comes.
The feedback has been so positive that Perow contacted Onsrud about getting an additional Little Free Library to be installed at Mitchell Field.
Three Little Libraries in town should be enough, Perow added, especially because of the proposed locations, but if she could get one in Cundy’s Harbor, she would love to.
And, though people may not think of implementing the Little Free Libraries as being a recreational initiative, Perow said her department is also responsible for a lot of community outreach.
“We do a lot of extra, and (this) definitely falls well within what we’re trying to do,” she said.
Harpswell got its first Little Free Library on Devil’s Back Trail in Orr’s Island last week, with plans in the works to install more around town.