Give a Book, Return a Book at Little Free Library

A free-standing library has sprouted in Ellicott City. There is no card required, but if you take a book, just return the favor.


Chris Guercio had so many books, she didn’t know what to do with them.

“I just started giving them away,” said the Ellicott City resident. She participates in Book Crossing and Good Reads, and even set up a library in the ladies room at work.

It’s no surprise, then, that when a friend heard about Little Free Library on NPR, she thought of Guercio. 

So Guercio and her husband bought a little library, assembled it, and now have the second Little Free Library in Maryland. There is also one in Silver Spring.

The premise behind Little Free Library is as simple as “take a book, return a book,” but the idea has become a loosely-organized movement, with at least several hundred libraries from Accra, Ghana, to Ellicott City. 

Anyone interested in starting his or her own library can purchase a pre-made library or fashion one of her own. Guercio and her husband opted for a pre-made model; prices range from $100 to $600.

Built by a Wisconsin furniture company, the “Eatmore Cranberry Crate Double Wide” is made from recycled cranberry crates and is designed to be used outside, keeping 20 to 30 books safe from the elements. 

The library sits on a stand on the Guercio’s front lawn on Cross Bow Court, with a plaque that reads “Celebrating Neighborhoods, Little Free Library,” and encourages people to “take a book, return a book.”

That’s just what Guercio hopes people will do.

She has stocked the library with books from her own collection, including Jonas Agee’s collection of short stories Acts of Love in Indigo Road; Anne Waldman’s In the Room of Never Grieve; and one of Guercio’s current favorites, The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage Through Afghanistan, by Christina Lamb.

“I’m very interested in other cultures, the lives of other people, especially other women in other parts of the world," Guercio said of her affinity for Lamb’s book. In general, with the exceptions of romance and mystery, she’s interested in just about anything.

Her love of reading comes from her parents, John Guercio and Verna Guercio, to whom the library is dedicated.

“They were both avid readers. My mother worked for a time at Howard County Library System,” Guercio said.  “They were great collectors of books and great readers. They instilled this love of reading.”

The Little Free Library isn’t Guercio’s first foray into the world of libraries. She, too, worked for the Howard County Library System, but didn’t fully appreciate it until she moved out of state.

As a young woman, Guercio lived for a time in Tennessee.

“I was shocked at the poor offerings they had,” she said. “I don’t think that people really, truly appreciate what a valuable asset the [Maryland] library is until we happen to be in another state.”

Particularly in Howard County, where . 

“We should be proud of our tradition of well-funded libraries,” she said. “And now you can have one in your front yard.” 


Brandie Jefferson April 10, 2012 at 12:30 AM
I would love to see more of these pop up around Ellicott City -- so cool. Maybe I'll talk to my landlord ...
Mike Radinsky April 10, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Great Idea, and I wish them luck. But unfortunately, now that they are aware of it, Howard County will find a way to tax it, or else regulate it out of existence.
Chris Guercio April 14, 2012 at 06:32 PM
If you have lots of books you don't want and don't know what to do with them, consider donating them to The Book Thing in Baltimore (bookthing.org).


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