INDIANAPOLIS — Thom Woodard filed a police report for the first time in his life this week.
"That was almost a bridge too far. It was just like, oh my gosh, I'm trying to do this just as something nice to do," Woodard told WRTV on Thursday night.
On Tuesday, Woodard had cleaned his Little Free Library, located at the corner of 40th and Illinois Streets, for the third time that week alone.
The first attack on the Little Free Library happened on November 9. Woodard came home to find that the cupola of the wooded structure had been destroyed and all the books were taken.
"People could not walk away with all those books in their arms. That's how many there are, in excess of 50 books. So you would need a box to haul them away. And maybe they tried to sell them," Woodard guessed for as to why someone would clear the library of its books.
However, Woodard says anyone who steals from the Free Library with intentions of selling the books to a second-hand store will be unsuccessful. He stamps just about every donated book he can with a "Little Free Library" label. If a book retailer sees that stamp, they know not to accept them for resale.
"Periodically, I've had people, you know, take books, and I come home and find books on the ground destroyed or something, or I'll find it completely emptied out. And obviously, that's not somebody feeling the spirit of the library; they're trying to take and sell them," Woodard said.
The way we consume the written word these days, selling a book for cash probably won't get you as far as it used to.
"I think it's sad if somebody is that desperate for money. So I empathize with that, too," Woodard said.
Then Woodard said he woke up on Sunday, November 14 to find the door of the library had been ripped off its hinges and the restocked shelves emptied. The books were strewn across the ground. The hinges, mind you, were screwed in with five-inch screws.
"And they took off a big part of the wood from the side of it to get the door off. And they actually broke a cast-iron hinge."
That night, Woodard put four new sets of hinges on the door.
But, not even 24 hours later, Woodard found a can of soup overturned and seeping onto a row of books. Woodard said it took him an hour to get it cleaned up, and he had to throw the books away.
"You can't clean soup off of books," Woodard said. "It's a better part of an hour, just to clean ... You know, so that's frustrating."
Woodard started the Little Free Library as a way to give back to the community he's lived in for the greater part of his life. As a Shortridge High School alum and proud homeowner of the same house for two decades, he wanted to find a way to give back to his longtime neighbors.
Woodard's Little Free Library is right next to a bus stop, so he enjoys watching as folks pick one up before stepping on. That's what he had envisioned in the first place. But that's not where most of the patrons come from — it's good ol' foot traffic.
"I get an awful lot of traffic there because of how busy the neighborhood is," he said. With the Martin Luther King Community Center right across the street, a park directly adjacent, and family homes surrounding his, it's a variance of people grabbing a free book or two.
"I generally put out an average of about 100 books a month, which is around 25 a week," Woodard said.
Woodard started the library in 2015. His motivation was seeing the plethora of other free libraries around the city.
"I think it's a great thing," Woodard said. He's an avid reader himself and looks forward to the book donations.
"Just yesterday, I came home, and a gal was putting books in there for me and bringing books by, so I'm very lucky to have a very active library that people participate in and patronize," Woodard said.
Unfortunately, the past week of vandals wreaking havoc on the library was not the first time. In 2018, the 120-pound Free Library had been ripped up from the ground.
Woodard said he was ready to be done with it then, but the community support made him stick with it and remember that initial motivation to build the library in the first place.
Woodard rebuilt the library and put it back in the ground with concrete. "I'm pretty confident it can't be lifted. You know, you'd need like a machine or a football team."
Although this now makes four attacks on his Free Library, Woodard says he's not interested in giving up.
"I'm kind of invested in it ... I've spent a lot of time on it, you know, I've got a post embedded in concrete — it's gonna be a lot of work for me to remove!" Woodard laughed.
Woodard doesn't want to speculate on why someone would go out of their way to destroy a free service to the community.
If he could, though, he'd ask the people responsible — why?
"What in the world are you getting out of this? Can we find some other outlet for your energy?"
Woodard says he isn't sure how much longer he can keep going back and repairing it, but for now, it stays, and he will maintain it.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.