The organizers of the “Little Queer Library,” a free community library in Waltham, said at least 50 books were stolen early Wednesday morning, the fourth time this year the books have been swiped.
“It’s made me increasingly paranoid,” Krysta Petrie, 33, who runs the library with her wife, Katie Cohen, 30, said in a telephone interview Friday. The cupboard-sized library is located outside their home. “We sit in view of the library in the living room when we work from home, and every time I see someone walk by the library, I say to Katie, ‘I hope this person isn’t ... taking all of our books.’”
At 2:07 a.m. on Wednesday, a person allegedly parked down the street, walked up to the library, and stole LGBTQ-themed books made for children and young adults, Cohen said.
The thief also pulled up one of Cohen’s plant stalks and tossed it inside and scattered pride-themed pencils and bookmarks on the sidewalk, Cohen said.
Their Nest camera caught the culprit on tape. In the footage, Petrie said, the thief, who they estimate is around 6 feet tall, comes up to the library wearing a mask and a hoodie while holding bags.
They don’t know who the thief is, but they think people target the library because of the books they offer.
Cohen, a software trainer, and Petrie, a software engineer, reported the incident to Waltham police but were told there wasn’t much police could do because the library is next to a public sidewalk and the books are free.
Waltham Police Detective Sergeant Patrick Dean said Friday the matter is under investigation and declined further comment.
Just this year, Cohen and Petrie have had three other instances of stolen books — two incidents in February and one in March.
In total, Petrie estimated they’ve lost around “a couple thousand dollars worth of donations at this point.”
The police were able to track down the person who stole books back in February and March and told him not to come back, Cohen said.
“We have a feeling that this person that came is a different person entirely,” said Cohen. “But [police are] looking into it and trying to figure out if there’s any legal recourse, but from what it sounds like, this person is ethically wrong and doing something wrong, but it’s not really something that’s legally wrong.”
Cohen said the thefts are more of a breach of the library’s social contract, “the idea of bringing [a book] back to the library so that somebody else can take it and read it themselves.”
The Little Queer Library organizers say in the wake of the thefts they received a lot of donations in the form of books and money and are helping organize Waltham’s first pride festival on June 4.
“Our mission with this is to try to get more books out there that have positive LGBT representation because, although we’ve made strides in a lot of ways of being more accepting, there’s still a lot of people and a lot of things out there in general out in the United States that are bad things that are impacting the community and representation,” Cohen said. “And reading about somebody’s who’s different than you is important. Also seeing yourself in the books is really important.
“Whoever is doing this for whatever reason that they’re doing it, you’re not going to make us go away,” Cohen added.