little libraries deland
BEACON PHOTO/CARMEN CRUZ LITTLE LIBRARIES — Judy Mathys’ home at 233 W. Pennsylvania Ave. in DeLand boasts two little libraries, reflecting her passion for sharing literature far and wide. It has helped her distribute the inventory she had left after selling the Family Book Shop in DeLand.

Judy Mathys, an 83-year-old resident of DeLand, recently expanded the little library project she started in front of her house a decade ago.

What started as a way for Mathys to continue sharing her love of literature after she sold the Family Book Shop swiftly evolved into a passion project all on its own.

With a purple streak in her gray hair and a living room full of at least a dozen boxes of books, Mathys talked about the precise moment when she let her bookstore go.

“I owned it for 32 years. I sold it 10 years, 11 months, nine weeks, eight days and six hours ago, in case you’re wondering if I’m sorry,” Mathys said.

After earning an English degree at Stetson University, she found a way to support her three young daughters through tough times by selling books out of her home. She would buy them from yard sales and thrift stores and sell them.

Judy Mathys

Eventually that home-based business expanded into a brick-and-mortar shop that became a beloved DeLand landmark at 1301 N. Woodland Blvd.

The Family Book Shop is now owned by Kerry and Kaaren Johnson.

“Her store is still thriving and doing well in the 21st century,” Kaaren Johnson said. “It’s here because of her.”

After decades of running the business, Mathys’ husband’s health had declined, so she decided to take a step back.

She was left with an abundance of leftover stock, and thus the idea for a little library blossomed. With the help of a former tenant, they built the first box to be stocked with books and set up in front of her home on West Pennsylvania Avenue in DeLand.

Community demand and an overflow of newly acquired books sparked the expansion. There are now two little libraries in the front yard.

“I would never throw the book away ever,” Mathys said.

She said starting the project wasn’t hard. It cost around $100 to build the smaller of the two libraries.

Mathys has noticed other little libraries popping up around West Volusia in recent years, and she makes sure to fill those other boxes, too, when she gets the chance. Mathys said, with a little ingenuity, anyone could start one.

Her experience owning a bookstore has helped her run the project efficiently. She continues to collect books from leftover inventory at local book sales she helps organize, and redistributes them in her little libraries and at book drives around town.

SORTING — Judy Mathys sorts books that will likely end up in a little library somewhere in West Volusia. In addition to stocking the ones in her front yard, she puts books in others’ little libraries.

To keep track of what’s popular in her libraries, she started a system where she marks the bottoms of her books with a number, and then restocks with a new set of books marked with a different number the following month.

She’s also separated the two boxes by category, with the larger library in front of her house for adult fiction and nonfiction, and the smaller one for children’s books.

Sometimes folks leave books behind when they come by as well, in a sort of take-one-leave-one fashion, though Mathys insists that is not required. Her affinity for literature has informed her career for decades, and now it allows her to give back to the community.

Her favorite part? Getting to talk to fellow book-lovers, of course. She said it’s important to get literature out to people who either can’t afford books or don’t read fast enough to return books to the library on time.

“It’s fun,” she told The Beacon. “And I get to talk to people who are literate.”


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