It’s not a library and it’s definitely not a store, so Russell Wattenberg calls his operation “The Book Thing.” He runs the warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland where folks can come in and fill their buckets, baskets, and boxes with as many books as they like - all for free.
“All free,” Wattenberg explains. “It cuts down on robberies. We encourage shoplifters.” And he’s been doing it that way for the last 17 years. His books are supplied by donations and the space is run by volunteers and readers are encouraged to come in, take and keep as many books as they want.
When a fire destroyed The Book Thing in 2016, supporters responded with donations, fundraisers, and cash, so they could reopen their doors to their readers. "I don't have the patience to teach somebody to read," he says. "I don't have the diligence to be a writer. The only way I see to contribute the written word is by doing this."