The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Miss Manners: How do I stop people from taking all the books from my Little Free Library?

Dear Miss Manners: We love having a Little Free Library in our front yard. We enjoy seeing neighbors and passersby look through the books, take one or two, and maybe make a special trip to leave a few that they’re finished with. We’ve received thank-you notes from people who appreciate our little library.

However, a pair of women have started roaming our neighborhood, emptying all the Little Free Libraries into large bags that they carry. It got to the point that our library was being emptied every few days. We saw them this morning, carrying bags stuffed with books, and we confronted them.

They were extremely belligerent. One claims that she takes them to give to her students, meaning she either has several hundred students, or they all read a few dozen books at a time. They also seem to have tastes including beginning-reader books, Stephen King thrillers, romance novels and cookbooks. I’m pretty sure they are all being sold somewhere.

The woman who did most of the talking claims that the word “free” on the library entitles her to take as many books as she wants. I agree that she should take as many books as she wants to read, but she readily admits she is not reading them.

We put a “Closed” sign on our library, but we may try opening it again in the near future with a little sign in the window outlining some rules. But really, I don’t know what to do. It isn’t a police matter, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that important, but I can’t stand these two women feeling entitled to take all of the books in the neighborhood.

Congratulations on your newfound status as a librarian. You have already noticed that the job comes with the right to dictate the rules, if not the enviable ability to shush people (although what you do behind closed doors is up to you).

Miss Manners suggests that you take advantage of this right and indeed post signs: “Please help yourself to one or two books, then return or replace them for other people’s enjoyment when you can.”

You might also take out the word “free” from the title. It will still be implied, but its absence may, perhaps, prove less likely to make hoarders out of borrowers.

Dear Miss Manners: As a general rule, are men’s jeans and men’s cargo pants considered to have the same level of dressing down?

Although Miss Manners does not subscribe to the popular idea that there is such a thing as “good jeans,” she does acknowledge that clean, dark, untorn jeans worn with a button-down shirt are marginally more dressy than cargo pants — if only for the reason that cargo pants are so often stuffed with garden tools and bottles of beer. They are also prone to being accompanied by “man sandals” — something she will never concede are socially acceptable outside of beaches and one’s own dimly lit home.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin