Booklovers open little libraries on Mukilteo streets

By Nicholas Johnson | Jan 25, 2017
Courtesy of: Mary McElroy A mother and her two sons stop by the McElroys’ Free Little Library on Crownmill Ave. recently to browse through books and sign the guest book.

John and Mary McElroy say they’re meeting more people in their mid-town Mukilteo neighborhood since the Jan. 14 grand-opening – complete with a ribbon cutting – of their Free Little Library.

“We’ve met several of our neighbors that we hadn’t met before,” said Mary, whose “take a book, leave a book,” mailbox-sized library was designed, by her husband, to look like the other homes on Crownmill Ave. – those that house people rather than books, that is.

The McElroys’ is the third such library in Mukilteo and one of an estimated 50,000 registered worldwide. A map is available at

Jackie Specht, who works at the Mukilteo Library, opened hers about three years ago on 99th St. SW in south Mukilteo, dedicating it to the memory of former co-workers Linda Sitton and Charlene Bozek.

“It’s kind of become a focal point of the neighborhood,” said Specht, who ordered hers from a catalogue. “We get a lot of people who walk in this neighborhood. I like to wave to people when they stop by.”

Bill and Addie Gerlach opened theirs on 18th Street – in the same mid-town neighborhood as the McElroys’ – in October 2016.

“It seems to have fostered more sidewalk traffic and has presented opportunities to meet those nearby,” Bill said.

All agree the libraries are a hit, particularly with neighborhood kids.

“Kids love to stop by and look for new books,” said Bill, whose children helped him build theirs in a rather trial-and-error process.

“Our kids worked on the design, drawing pictures of what they thought it should look like, and also helped paint and decorate once it was built,” he said, noting they learned how to stake a post, apply roofing and waterproofing.

Both the Gerlachs and the McElroys have placed guest books inside their libraries, which children often use to make requests. Mary said the kids on Crownmill have been asking for fantasy and mystery books.

“Keeping it stocked is going to be our job,” she said. “I’ve been buying some discarded books from the public library to stock ours. When garage sales start up again, I’ll have another avenue for getting books.”

Bill said his family prefers to stock quality over quantity.

“We prefer a wide variety of quality literature for children and adults, and historical fiction/non fiction,” he said. “Maybe the occasional sticker book or Lego magazine. It's better to have empty space to encourage others to share their books than have it packed full of old encyclopedias and tax tables from the 1980s.”

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