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Old Lyme - A new little lending library stands in Sound View, just 573 steps to the sea.
The cabinet-sized library, painted bright blue with tiny pink hearts, holds mysteries, magazines and picture books that passers-by can pick up on their way along Hartford Avenue to the beach.
Laurie May, a Manchester resident who spends her summers in Sound View, built the library last month with her grandchildren to encourage neighbors and beach visitors to "take a book" and "return a book."
Since then, about 20 to 30 people have visited the lending library each day, from a little boy who thanked May for making the library to a 12-year-old who came over and donated a magazine to the collection, she said.
"People are constantly looking at it," she said.
The diminutive library at Sound View is one of thousands of "Little Free Libraries" tucked into yards, old telephone booths and newspaper boxes across the country. Old Saybrook, Ledyard, Mystic and Pawcatuck are among nearby communities with the little libraries, according to a map of registered locations.
The trend that began with a Wisconsin man who filled a small model of a one-room schoolhouse with books in honor of his mother, a teacher, has now grown into an organization, Little Free Library, that registers each library, according to its website. A 2009 magazine article first interested May in the idea.
May dedicated the library to her mother-in-law, Lee Tricarico, an "avid reader" who would often devour a book in one day. May's grandchildren, McKenna Usher, 10, and Brody Usher, 7, also love to read, she said, and enjoyed making the library.
They cut a cabinet in half, painted it bright blue and installed a shingled roof. They added a string of lights, painted pink hearts and decorated it with McKenna and Brody's handprints. It now stands by May's blue cottages with yellow doors and a sign letting pedestrians know they are "573 steps to the sea."
May said she wants to share her books with residents and visitors on their way to relax on the beach. In turn, she has received many donated books and periodicals from neighbors.
"It's a great little neighborhood," said May of Sound View.
May found her way to Sound View 10 years ago, while spending a weekend at her daughter's home in Point O' Woods Beach. May and her husband, Dan Tricarico, went searching for the famous beach doughnuts at Sound View. While they didn't find the doughnuts then, they did come upon two little white cottages for sale on a lot along Hartford Avenue.
"We have met so many nice neighbors that are generation after generation - families that have been here forever," she said.
The guest book shows notes of appreciation, from a German resident who read a book to her baby to a 9-year-old girl complimenting the library as a "cute idea" with "some great books."
"There can't be anything better than reading books," said May.