It’s the only registered Little Free Library in the Keys, tucked under a sea grape tree on Coco Plum Drive. Members of the public are encouraged to take one of the free books, and if so inspired, leave one for someone else to enjoy. And, why not? It’s free.

“As soon as I saw these clever little libraries, I was hooked,” said new Middle Keys resident Karen Newfield. She and her husband, Kevin, installed the library on Coco Plum Drive even before the renovations to their home are complete.

Karen’s little library used to be located in Tequesta, Florida. But when they decided to make Marathon the new homestead, the structure came too. It’s painted a light blue, just like their Keys home, and topped with a metal roof. A little silver plaque announces it is a Little Free Library, charter member 5776.

It’s already received a lot of play, and Karen checks on the little house daily — stocking it with new items. Joggers, dog-walkers and passersby are drawn to the little stand out of curiosity, if nothing more. Many take a book.

“I have been an avid reader my whole life. And I don’t just love to read but get real joy by sharing, discussing, recommending and encouraging books to others,” said Karen. “I find that I can connect with just about anyone discussing books, even if we have little or nothing else in common.”

What she’s reading and recommending right now: “Next Year in Havana,” by Chanel Cleeton.

Little Free Libraries can be made of anything. Although many order a low-cost kit (from, others go full DIY — hollowing out trees, building tiny replicas of their own homes, old newspaper vending machines, etc. The structures are protected by “freedom of speech” laws, and so cannot be outlawed, although good neighbor manners dictate they should be placed thoughtfully.

Karen strives for a variety in her little book nook. While she doesn’t pigeonhole men or women by the type of fiction they read, she wants to make sure she has something to appeal to everyone — romance, thrillers, mystery, war stories. She also puts books in for kids. Just recently, she added a Judy Blume novel.

Karen has even roped her husband, Kevin Newfield, into the game. He’s a part-time orthopedic surgeon on the mainland and she installed a Little Free Library in his office. One of her husband’s clients has bequeathed Karen the libraries of two of her homes. She said she has no idea what she’s gotten into, but is thankful she has some time to plan.

“I also review books on my blog at, follow other bloggers, and am a member of (online book review sites) NetGalley and Good Reads,” Karen said. “And, for the past 15 years, I moderated our local book club.”

Visit the Little Free Library at 103 Coco Plum Dr., Marathon.

Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.