Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

Downtown Free Library Gives Away 1 Million (or so) Books!

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

Update: June 1, 2015: Over two and a half years ago the Downtown Partnership opened the Downtown Free Library with two branches in downtown Chapel Hill; on East Franklin Street and on Columbia Street. We commandeered unused newspaper bins and stocked them with books. And left a simple message for all - "Take a Book. Leave a Book. READ!". A few months later, we opened a third branch on West Franklin Street. Since then between 500 to 1 million books have been given away to people in need of a good read!

Well, possibly 1 million books.

When the libraries first opened, the books were culled from the home shelves of Downtown Partnership staff, I bought books during large book sales at the local public libraries, and volunteers collected books too. I dutifully restocked the libraries often. But in no time at all people began to donate books on their own; so much so that I  have absolutely no idea how many books have flowed into the libraries and then back out into people’s hands.

I can account for 500 or so books that I’ve put into the libraries, but most days when I stop by to replenish books, the libraries have books in them that anonymous donors have left.  I've noticed some patterns. The end of the UNC semesters often bring a great variety of text books and novels and in January I see a stream of post-holiday book purges. We have a very well-read community, and it’s reflected in the books that are left in the free libraries. Thank you to the generous book lovers in Chapel Hill and Carrboro that have donated books! 

In addition to books, we give away home-made bookmarkers made by volunteers. And this past winter someone named The Yarn Fairy used the libraries to give away free scarves. What a wonderful and lovely use of the libraries! When I stopped by to restock the library, all that was left were delightful notes. Thank you Yarn Fairy,  others were kept warm because of your kindness.

So, stop by one of the Downtown Free Library branches soon and stock up for summer reading! De-clutter your bookshelves and donate a few too.


Library Opens in Downtown Chapel Hill

January 15, 2013: The Downtown Free Library has opened two branches in downtown Chapel Hill – open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The two libraries are currently stocked with mysteries, children’s books, romance stories, historical biographies, and novels by local authors  - all to encourage the love of reading and build a sense of community through the free book exchange.   

Downtown Free Library on N. Columbia St.

Downtown Free Library on N. Columbia St.

The libraries are located in the green periodical bins on North Columbia Street, right next to the bus shelter – and on East Franklin Street, in front of Subway and University Florist.

Open and accessible to all; the Downtown Free Library is more than just a stash of free books. It offers people a creative sense of place that adds to the spirit that makes downtown Chapel Hill special. 

So, stop by next time you need a good book to read while you eat lunch at your favorite downtown spot. Drop off that great novel you finished and want to share with the world – and leave a note inside for the next reader about why you love the book. Need a rainy day craft with your kids? Make bookmarkers and leave a stack of them in the Downtown Free Library to share! 

The Downtown Free Library belongs to everyone; as do the books inside. If you see two or three books you want – they are yours to read. Consider bringing them back when you are done or drop other books to share.

~ Meg - whose favorite childhood book was  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L' Engle and is currently reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.