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With a Little Free Library, Pacific Beach residents share their love of reading with neighbors

Jenni and Eric Busboom with their Little Free Library at 1370 Wilbur Ave.
(Milan Kovacevic)

Have you read a good book that you think others will enjoy?

Looking for something new to read?

Curious about what books your neighbors have found intriguing?

Then take a walk.

Residents throughout Pacific Beach are sharing their love of reading with their neighbors by creating and stocking Little Free Libraries in front of their homes.

The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 at a Wisconsin home as a way to share books. Since then, more than 125,000 Little Free Libraries have been created. They can be found in all 50 states and 112 countries, with an estimation of more than 250 million books shared, according to the nonprofit organization’s website.

According to the Little Free Library registry, 18 libraries have been chartered in the 92109 ZIP code. Most are in Pacific Beach, but a few can be found in Mission Beach and the Crown Point area.

The libraries’ styles vary greatly. Many were made by residents with basic woodworking skills. A few residents hired someone to design and build their library. Others got creative by upcycling things they found. These include a converted kitchen cabinet at 5202 Vickie Drive and a picnic cooler at 2848 Bayside Walk, just steps from the beach.

In the registry, Jane Williams wrote about her cooler library, “Ours is a beach community filled with residents who love books and love to read! Tourists flow into our neighborhood from winter through summer. Our little free library is constructed from a recycled picnic cooler!”

“It seemed like a nice thing to do for the neighborhood,” said John McCarren, who used his woodworking skills to build the library about a year ago for his home at 5298 Edgeworth Road.

“He made the library roof to look like our house’s before we got our new roof,” said his wife, Andrea McCarren, referring to the faux Spanish tile roof John added. “It’s cute and kids leave decorative rocks around it.”

Andrea and John McCarren with their Little Free Library at 5298 Edgeworth Road.
(Milan Kovacevic)

The McCarrens, who have lived in Pacific Beach for 15 years, placed a bench next to the library so neighbors have a place to sit while browsing through books.

“A neighbor said she loves bringing her son,” Andrea said, adding while many people walk in the neighborhood, she noticed pedestrian traffic increased in front of their house once they built the library.

John said sometimes they have so many books they contribute books to other Little Free Libraries in the community.

Jenni Busboom, the librarian at Pacific Beach Elementary School, said her husband, Eric, built their Little Free Library about five years ago. It is in front of their home at 1370 Wilbur Ave.

“I had seen them around and since I saw the first knew I wanted one,” she said. “It’s a cool thing for people in the neighborhood.”

She said the library has been “self sustaining” after the initial batch of books they placed inside.

“I had a bunch of books and stocked it, then they dwindled. But then people came with books to share,” Busboom said.

She described the books as “pretty eclectic” in variety. There are mysteries, popular novels, classical literature, cookbooks and children’s books.

Busboom said she organizes the books about once a week, putting children’s books on the lower shelf so they are easier to reach and making sure no trash is left inside.

“It is important to be a steward of the library,” she said.

When stopping by the Busbooms’ library, visitors will want to peer into the window at the roof’s peak. Inside they will discover a scene created with miniatures — a library with cats.

“My husband is a really good builder and decided to make an A-frame, to look like a house,” she said. “The top has a triangle, so I wanted to create a little scene.”

Busboom said she bought most of the miniature figures to create the scene from Ms. Peggie’s Place, which sells dollhouses and miniatures on Cass Street in PB.

Eric Busboom is not the only library builder in the family. The couple’s son, Max, a junior at Mission Bay High School, built a book exchange library for Pacific Beach Elementary as his Eagle Scout project. It was installed at the beginning of the school year.

“It was a bit hard to assemble, but I wanted to do it because I love literacy and enjoyed my time at the elementary school,” Max Busboom said.

He installed the library in the campus’ garden near a bench so students can get a book to read during recess.

“It is a high traffic area of the campus, so it is well utilized,” he said, adding he held a children’s book drive with his Scouts BSA troop in order to fill the library.

While accessing Max’s library requires being inside the PB Elementary campus, Girl Scout Troop 4910 created a book exchange library for Sessions Elementary that is accessible for all. Filled with children’s books, it is near the front entrance of the campus at 2150 Beryl St.

Ian Cutler, who lives on Oliver Ave., dubbed his Little Free Library the “Lone Palm Oasis Library.” Cutler said he picked that name because his house has the only palm tree on the block.

“This was a COVID project, about six months in,” Cutler said. “I’ve always wanted one and just used pieces of wood and recycled stuff to build it. I’ve done woodworking before.”

Ian Cutler, holding his cat Magnus of Meowfloffson, with the Little Free Library on Oliver Ave.
Ian Cutler, holding his cat Magnus of Meowfloffson, with the Little Free Library on Oliver Ave. He has dubbed it the Lone Palm Oasis Library.
(Elizabeth Marie Himchak)

Cutler said he first saw Little Free Libraries a decade ago when living in Austin, Texas. When he moved to Somerville, Massachusetts, he also saw them there.

“They are a hip city and town and I saw a lot of them,” Cutler said. “It is a fun community project. Quality communities are built on the foundation of sharing resources and knowledge.”

With Adirondack chairs nearby, Cutler said the library has become a place where neighbors like to stop and chat. It serves as an ice breaker for conversations.

“Every week or so it is completely empty or has been switched out with different books,” he said. To help fill it, Cutler said he tries to find “quality” books at estate sales and swap meets, but he also likes to get inexpensive used books at Pennywise Books in PB.

The decorated red cabinet Roseann Vecchio and her husband, Jim Moore, have in front of their home at 5202 Vickie Drive is a second version. They created their first in 2016.

“A couple years ago we had another one that we made up, but it ended up disintegrating because of the weather,” Moore said.

Jim Moore and Roseann Vecchio with their Little Free Library at 5202 Vickie Drive.
Jim Moore and Roseann Vecchio with their Little Free Library at 5202 Vickie Drive.
(Milan Kovacevic)

So for their current library he recycled an old kitchen cabinet he obtained from Habitat for Humanity by turning it upside down and adding plywood to make it more weatherproof. He put colorful film on the cabinet glass and the couple placed statues of a dog and child reading books on top.

Moore said he is a lifelong Pacific Beach resident. The couple has lived in their house since 1983.

“I’ve always been a book person,” Vecchio said, a former Cal Western Law School librarian. “I saw a few around town and thought it was a good idea.”

Vecchio said she has also seen the library as a good ice breaker for the neighborhood.

“People will chat with me and other people (browsing the books),” she said.

The library is often filled due to what the couple and their neighbors put inside. She said the most popular tend to be John Grisham novels and detective books.

“I have occasionally put in other things, especially at the beginning of (COVID) lockdowns,” Vecchio said. “I put in some old toys, games for kids and jigsaw puzzles go really fast.”

When she notices some books not being selected Vecchio said she swaps them out for others. She usually has a couple bags filled with books to add.

“We have a very generous neighbors who are good about putting in books,” she said. “The children’s books go fast.

“It is a good neighborhood with good, generous people, so we have new stuff coming in all the time,” Vecchio said. “It is a neighborhood library as much as it is mine.”

Marie Kracha said her family’s Little Free Library was installed two years ago at 1319 Chalcedony St., where they have lived for 35 years.

“I’ve always had the inspiration to have one, just had to talk my husband (Daniel Kracha) into it,” she said. “During COVID I had the extra time and was reading more, so that was the catalyst.

Marie Kracha with her Little Free Library at 1319 Chalcedony St.
(Courtesy of Marie Kracha)

“I hired somebody to build it that my friends recommended,” Kracha said. “I researched it and gave screenshots of the style I wanted.

“I think it is a really cool idea,” she said. “I had a little spot that was ugly, so the library is great there. I get a lot of foot traffic by my house, especially mothers with strollers.”

With two shelves inside, Kracha said she puts books for adults on top and those for children below.

“The children’s books go fastest,” Kracha said.”

“When I see people there I introduce myself,” Kracha said. “One cool experience was I came out and saw a homeless woman with an old van rummaging through. She said reading is the best pastime.”

Kracha said she asked the woman what type of books she likes to read and when the answer was murder mysteries said she would try to get more of those from her mother-in-law, whom she described as an avid reader.

The eighth grade physical education teacher in Imperial Beach said she has also leaves little items for children, like small toys. She also put bottles of hand sanitizer inside.

“I was never a big book reader, but now am a book hoarder,” Kracha said. “I visit family and friends and they give me books.”

Some of those books make it into other Little Free Libraries.

“I visit the others because I have so many books to distribute to the other ones,” Kracha said. “My favorites to read are the chick books — easy summer reads about women’s trials and tribulations. ... I’m not into romance, but like mysteries.”

Kracha said she also enjoys decorating the library for holidays.

“It is a cute little project I like,” she said.

Traci Petti is another retired teacher who is sharing her love of books with her neighbors. She taught at Pacific Beach Elementary from 1980 to 2013.

“I was a teacher for 35 years and my early memories are of going in the library with so many choices to read,” Petti said. “My parents encouraged reading.”

David and Traci Petti with their Little Free Library at 1253 Wilbur Ave.
(Courtesy of Traci Petti)

Petti said one of her favorite things to do when vacationing is looking up Little Free Libraries wherever she visits. For example, she went to Boston a couple months ago and found a library built to look like Fenway Park, complete with scoreboard.

Her library at 1253 Wilbur Ave. was installed five years ago. To decorate their library her husband, David Petti, put a planter box on the back, in which they placed succulents.

“A funny thing happened when my husband made it. It was freshly painted, so had no books in it yet,” Petti said. “The next day he comes in the house with a shocked look and says there are books in the library. Within 10 hours it took on a life of its own. There have been good books in that library.”

She added, “The motto is ‘Take a book. Leave a book.’ I have not seen books return, but see people bring different books,” Petti said. “Cookbooks do not do too well, but then there are seasons. I’ve put in travel books, tried magazines like ZooNooz. The teenage kids are older, so I ask them what they like to read.”

Petti said she has piles of books at her home so she can change them out and is always looking for books men would enjoy. To make it easier for children to make selections she put some of their books in little plastic bins on a table next to the library. She has also put out a box of seedless limes when her tree produces a bumper crop.

To find a map and addresses for registered libraries anywhere go to littlefreelibrary.org.

Registered Little Free Libraries in ZIP code 92109

Charter No. 7323 — 2002 Thomas Ave.

Charter No. 9044 — 815 Avalon Court

Charter No. 11640 — 2848 Bayside Walk

Charter No. 44480 — 1253 Wilbur Ave.

Charter No. 49724 — 1370 Wilbur Ave.

Charter No. 49966 — 4005 Fanuel St.

Charter No. 52710 — 5202 Vickie Drive

Charter No. 53511 — 5298 Edgeworth Road

Charter No. 65513 — 3812 Haines St.

Charter No. 75217 — 3930 Sequoia St.

Charter No. 87513 — 1254 Turquoise St.

Charter No. 100898 — 1124 Agate St.

Charter No. 103534 — 1319 Chalcedony St.

Charter No. 109979 — 1730 Pacific Beach Drive

Charter No. 110383 — Oliver Ave.

Charter No. 112162 — 3774 Bayside Lane

Charter No. 117859 — Agate Street, between Cass St. and La Jolla Mesa Drive

Charter No. 131344 — inside Pacific Beach Elementary

Charter No. 138377 — 5022 Pendleton St.


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