Residents create town’s first little free library

The red library houses books of all genres and age groups, available for people to take or restock – free of charge.

Residents Kate Lazaro and Carrie Rentz are the creators of Mantua’s first Little Free Library, which sits at the intersection of Chestnut and Main Streets, and since its creation, people have been stopping by to pick up and drop off various books (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

On the corner of Chestnut and Main streets sits a small red structure containing books, aptly named the “Main Street Little Free Library” where visitors can take, leave or borrow books at their leisure.

Creators Carrie Rentz and Kate Lazaro thought of and built the library after seeing other structures in nearby Pitman and Mullica Hill.

“[Rentz] had wanted one and she mentioned it before and whatnot,” Lazaro said. “Every time we would see one, she would say ‘they’re really neat, I would love one of those.’ So, for her birthday, I built her this as a gift.”

Lazaro said it took her a full day to build the library at her dad’s home, then a few more days to put the finishing touches on it, such as paint.

The library was formally installed near the end of July and was stocked with books Rentz and her family had lying around and didn’t need. Since then, Rentz said it’s been a big hit among both her neighbors and the entire town as the Facebook page they created for it blew up overnight.

“The books change almost every day in there because they’re coming and going,” she said.

As a resident of 45 years in Mantua, Rentz said she wanted to have something available for the community, her daughter Cosette and their friends to use whenever they wish.

“My daughter’s always loved to read, so it’s nice to be able to pass on her books, and for her to get books,” Rentz said. “Books can be expensive, so why not share them?”

She added the biggest thing about the library is that it’s completely free for anyone to use.

“We’ve gotten messages plainly saying ‘Can I just come and take books?’ and we tell them ‘yes’ because that’s what it’s meant for,” Rentz said. “Take books, leave books, borrow books – whatever you want to do.”

Within the library are bookmarks that help explain its purpose.

“Some people don’t know what it is and it helps,” she said. “I’ve had neighbors peer in and wonder what it was or ask if they could drop books in it, and we always said ‘yes.’”

The library contains books such as “Charmed,” “Zootopia,” “Fight Club,” “Hatchet” and others to appease to readers of all age groups.

While they have the library currently on the corner of the two streets, Lazaro and Rentz said they hope to either expand or inspire other residents to create little free libraries throughout the town.

“I would like to see a few more pop up around town,” Rentz said. “Maybe some down at [Chestnut Branch Park] or at the municipal building. I’ve seen them at different public buildings in other towns.”

As the library sits near her home, Rentz said she’s welcome to people sitting near the library to read some of the shorter books, but most people take or exchange and leave.

“My favorite thing is that people who don’t have homes around here or want to read but can’t afford the books, can come and read the books if they’d like to,” said the younger Rentz.

To learn more about the Main Street Little Free Library, visit www.Facebook.com/MainStreetLittleFreeLibrary.

“It’s a good way to get the community involved with each other and share things,” said Rentz. “That was my goal in it.”