Seal Beach’s miniature libraries offer used books for free

Pictured above is the Little Free Library at the Girl Scout House on Seventh Street. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

Free, used books are available at various locations in Old Town.

For-profit used bookstores are few nowadays. The Mary Wilson Friends of the Library bookstore hasn’t reopened yet.

So where’s a book lover to go when they need something to read and don’t want to spend money online? (Or they want to inhale the fragrance of an old book?) Where do you drop off a book you no longer have room for?

A few mini-libraries, both formal and informal, dot the local landscape, providing a resource for acquiring or discarding a physical book. 

The deal is the same at all of them: take a book, leave a book. 

The Little Free Library website lists two “chartered” libraries in Seal Beach, one on Catalina Avenue, and another on Seventh Street and Central.

(The cost of a completed “library” is from $389.95 without an inscription. The cost of kits to build your library start at $ 359.95. Those prices don’t include a library post.)

However, that list is not complete. The three are mini-libraries attached to fences on Ocean Avenue (until recently featuring a such science fiction works as “Starship Troopers” and Robert Sheckley’s “Victim” Trilogy) and on the fence of the Girl Scout House on Seventh Street (close to the Mary Wilson Library Branch). 

A sign on the Ocean Avenue library asks that you only leave books.

On Eighth Street you will find children’s books aplenty, including “The Dog Who Saved Christmas” (admittedly off-season), and “Big Hugs, Little Hugs,” as well as classics (“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”), Herman Melville’s “Pierre,” (also known as “The Ambiguities”) and “The Di Vinci Code.” 

A simple cardboard box inside Main Street’s Javatinis Espresso (under shelves of coffee pods and mugs) serves the same function as the rectangular hutches affixed to local fences. The selection varies over time, but at last visit included “Howard’s End,” a British classic by E. M. Forrester, an encyclopedia about Jack the Ripper, a biography of John D. Rockefeller Sr., a Stewart Woods suspense novel and “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.” This informal library is inside the shop. 

Possibly the largest selection available at an Old Town mini-library may be found outside of the Main Street Mercantile (to the rear of Brita’s Old Town Gardens). A set of bookshelves is located in a corner outside the shop door with seats and a table with an umbrella providing shade. The selection there leans heavily toward suspense novels, but there’s a basket of children’s books that includes “The Search for the Story,” about a boy’s search for a story to fill the blank pages of a book.