A friend recently told me about a place called The Book Thing, a unique institution dedicated to giving away free books to any who want them, as long as they promise not to resell them. I went to the website to learn more and was shocked to see that The Book Thing is temporarily closed due to a major fire earlier this year. Rebuilding is under way, and they’re hoping to re-open in late 2016.
The Book Thing began with a conversation in a bar about people needing books and a book-loving bartender determined to do something about it. That was back in 1999. Since then, the ideas has evolved into a major institution dedicated to collecting book from people and organizations who wish to donate them and distributing those books free to people who want them. In September, 1999, The Book Thing of Baltimore, Inc, became a 501(c)3, making donations tax-deductible. That November, Russell Wattenburg quit his bartending job to run The Book Thing full time.
I talked with Russell recently and he says that they’re doing the best they can to recover but are hampered at the moment by the need to await the engineers' assessment and city permits needed to work on the building. Meanwhile he’s rented a nearby building to store books and they have resumed taking in books and even managing to give some away. For details on current activities, volunteering and donating books go to the website, or the facebook page, where updated information is regularly posted.
While you’re at the website be sure to pause a moment to check out the “Fun Stuff” feature which shows real books that have been donated to the Book Thing, such as
How to Avoid Huge Ships
Manifold Destiny: The One and Only Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine
Throw Me aBone: What Happens When You Marry an Archeologist;
Professional Uses of Adhesive Tape;
The Original Road Kill Cookbook;
There are pictures of the fire’s devastation online but they break my heart too much to include here. You can see them by searching The Book Thing of Baltimore and clicking on “images.”
Learn more about the Book Thing, by checking out our podcast #23