Thursday, May 30, 2013

'Little Free Library' Tucked Away in Easton's West Ward

By Christina Georgiou

In various places in Easton's West Ward there are many interesting and beautiful things that are easily overlooked by those too preoccupied to really pay attention. But for the observant, there are a number of details, either existing or specifically placed by residents to enhance the neighborhood.

One such attraction, a "branch" of The Little Free Library, is tucked away in a shed-like box painted with a spiral design on South Eighth Street, near the corner of Lehigh Street, on the side lawn of the law offices of Easton lawyer Ed Shaughnessy.

Dedicated, "In Honor of my High School English Teacher, Janet Heller", the latched but unlocked box offers books, free for the taking to any who pass by, and invites visitors to contribute more or return those they've borrowed, though there is no obligation to do so.

According to The Little Free Library world map, while there are several thousand branches worldwide, Shaughnessy's--#1202--is the only one in the Lehigh Valley. There are 27 others scattered across Pennsylvania.

"My little free library opened in July of 2012 and has enjoyed some good use," Shaughnessy said when asked about it. "My office windows look out over the area where it sits, and it is highly enjoyable to see people stop, look, open the doors and take a book.

"It's really neat to see people discover it," he said. "I can actually see people go 'wow!' and that's pretty neat."

The Little Free Library has a small but dedicated bunch of admirers, Shaughnessy said, and generally people have been respectful of it. However, a few weeks after it was erected, a small group of overly enthusiastic people tried to carry it off. Luckily, though it was a Saturday, Shaughnessy happened by the office just as the entire book collection and its box was being loaded into a vehicle to be hauled away.

"They were putting it into the back of their car," he said, adding the people were confused by the "free" part of the plaque that accompanies the box, failing to read the rest of it, which explains the "take a book, leave a book" nature of the community resource. "I'm really glad I was there."

The current selection when The Easton Eccentric happened by leaned toward classics, ancient history and some scholarly works, along with some hardcover fiction, though the choices are bound to change over time, depending on what is donated and what Shaughnessy himself puts in. He said the balance is about 50/50, of books from his own collection and donations.

"There are some books people drop by that are pretty good," Shaughnessy said. "I've taken a couple myself."

Shaughnessy said he was inspired to open the branch after reading about The Little Free Library project in a newspaper article.

"I just thought it was a really great idea," he said. Dedicating it to his English teacher who imparted a love of reading and an appreciation for good books was a natural complement to the project.

"Janet Heller was my English teacher when I was a senior at Easton high school back in 1979-1980. She was an amazing woman who lived on College Hill with her wild husband Warfie and their two children," Shaugnessy said. "She helped instill a love for literature in me and had a rich sense of humor that I deeply appreciated and still miss to this day. Her deep laugh was crazy and infectious."

While a few types of standard Little Free Library boxes are available through the organization's website, Shaughnessy opted to build his own.

"Building it was an adventure as I was not sure I really had the skills, but it seems to have weathered the past winter in fairly good shape," he said. "I probably need to redo the latch.  Soon enough."

The Little Free Library in Easton's West Ward is "open" 24/7 and is located on the east side of South Eighth Street, just off the corner of Lehigh Street.

For more information about the Little Free Library project or for information about how to start your own branch, visit


  1. Wonderful project. Thanks for reporting on it.

  2. I was also lucky enough to have had the wonderful Janet Heller for my English teacher. This is a fine tribute. Thank you very much!

  3. This is great.And though I did not have Janet Heller I remember her.

  4. Sort of eased your nerves when battling St Lukes

  5. The Little Free Library is having an Online Film Festival. Hopefully he will enter!

  6. Easton can use all of the TLC it can get! Good job Mr. Shaughnessy!

  7. A heart warming story- Janet Heller was my teacher and director in the school play. I am now a teacher of 29 yrs,in Tampa , Fl. and remember her fondly. I think it is wonderful what you are doing for Easton!