These seven Dartmouth libraries won't charge late fees

By Angie Hilsman | Jul 10, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman A Little Free Library greets passers-by on Water Street.

The strangest title Elizabeth Newton has ever found alongside her driveway is "American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation," by Eric Rutkow. But classics like Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," and Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" have also made an appearance.

The books are housed in a Little Free Library — a small, house-shaped box that allows community members to freely exchange books without the limited hours and late fees of a traditional library.

Newton installed the Little Free Library at her South Dartmouth home nearly three years ago, inspired by a Jane Austen Society newsletter profiling the mini-libraries.

"Being a reader and having too many books myself, it's easy to put books into a box like that. Plus, it's a community service," said Newton via phone.

In Dartmouth, there are two such libraries registered at LittleFreeLibrary.org, run by the similarly-named nonprofit focused on promoting reading, building community, and encouraging creativity. The idea is that community members not only browse the selection on hand, but also leave books to share with neighbors.

"You can keep the books. They don't even have to be returned. You can't even steal books because it's free," said Newton. The libraries are located at 427 Horseneck Road (slightly up the driveway) and at 131 Clarendon Street.

While Newton said the structures are ideal for book deserts — which lack public libraries — putting one up promotes the nonprofit's ideals.

"It's all about bringing people together, not just reading, but in other ways," said Newton, explaining that building the box can be a community project in and of itself. Boxes can also be purchased — and registered — at the Little Free Library website. There, visitors can locate the libraries on a map.

However, other such libraries can be found around town. Recently, one went up on Water Street, and Cushman School Principal Melissa McHenry worked with the parent-teacher organization and carpentry students from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical School to install two mini-libraries by the elementary school's Dartmouth Street location.

"Our goal is to increase access to books and spread the joy of reading throughout the Dartmouth community and neighboring ones too," said McHenry via email. By the end of the month, McHenry plans to have both libraries stocked with children's books and resources for parents.

At Salvador's Ice Cream, owner and GNB Voc-Tech teacher Len Gauvin has a Little Free Library by the gift shop. He said he's recently updated the selection with books that the school was giving away. Another mini-library is located down Smith Neck Road by Round Hill Beach, he said.

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