Caught on camera: Man takes every book from community library overnight


UPDATE Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020: The woman who owns the little library in Portsmouth had most of her books returned.

Monday night, WAVY News showed a doorbell video of a man taking Caroline Barnes’ books. He took every single book from the Little Free Library in the Park View area of the city.

It’s a community resource that allows people to give and take a couple books at a time for free.

Barnes said a former neighbor has a rental property in Park View. They went to their property, which has been vacant for a day, and found “non-Park View” people inside.

They also found a majority of the books.

Barnes posted online: “Some of our books! I would say we recovered a little more than half of them plus our valuable little Visitor Log…with lots of kids stories and drawings! How wonderful! One of the long boxes is broken but we can fix that.

“Thank goodness for Park View neighbors, WAVY, and Next-door! Plus we’ve had people from several of the local cities who are offering to give us some books for the library.

“Moore Expressions, a really neat homeschool store/business in Virginia Beach said to come over and she will help replenish the LFL. She going to give us several good quality classic and kids books. Thank you all, we will get everything back together. Come by soon and help yourself and your little ones to some new awesome treasures!”

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A free library that encourages reading in Portsmouth briefly closed to the public after all its books disappeared.

Someone took off with every single book overnight and the incident was caught on video.  

10 On Your Side spoke with the homeowner who runs a Little Free Library in front of her Park View home. 

It’s a community resource that allows people to give and take books for free. However, on Sunday night, someone got a little greedy. 

Caroline Barnes is trying not to judge a book by its cover, but she doesn’t think whoever stopped by her home is your typical bookworm.  

“The one gentleman opens up one of the boxes, opens up the library, tucks everything in there, stacks them up and off they go,” Barnes said. “I thought ‘What in the world.’”  

Barnes opened the Little Free Library at the corner of Elm Avenue and Leckie Street.  

You don’t need a library card to borrow a copy from this collection, but Barnes was shocked to find her nook of books completely checked out Monday morning.  

“I came out and the boxes are gone, and I thought ‘Oh my gosh, where did the boxes go?’ It was raining and then I looked in the little library and everything was gone – I mean everything,” Barnes said. 

Her doorbell camera showed someone emptying the library in the middle of the night.  

WAVY News has blurred the person’s face in a copy of the surveillance video because Barnes said police told her a crime was not committed.  

“It’s not illegal to take something free,” she said. 

Still, Barnes said it’s the principle behind it. The library was stocked with books for all ages.  

“It was sad. It was sad because the little library is something that belongs to the neighborhood, it belongs to the children of the neighborhood,” she said. “Everybody’s going to tablets and stuff, but I really feel there’s a value in having kids reading.” 

Although what happened is disappointing, Barnes hopes whoever took the books has a change of heart. 

“I hope they don’t throw them away or sell them. These are for the families in the neighborhood and I’d like those families to get back what they need,” she said.  

The library is now re-stocked with new books thanks to donations from Barnes’ neighbors and books from her own collection. 

If you’d like to find a Little Free Library in your area, visit here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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