KASSON — B.J. Witts and his family are used to stopping by the Kasson Public Library at least once a month.
So, when COVID-19 hit and the library was shut down for a couple months — at least to walk-in patrons — it put a temporary crimp in his family's reading. Witts said he came to the Kasson Public Library Free Book Giveaway on Saturday to pick up some tomes for his tots to keep his children reading through the pandemic.
"Especially with them being home with COVID," he said, adding that his children are in the hybrid school model, so they are home much more than usual during the school year. "This will give them some extra reading through the winter."
Will Lambert, president of the Friends of the Kasson Public Library, said normally the organization holds a book sale twice a year — one in August, the other in the spring — that raises funds for needed equipment and the library's summer reading program, but this year, they decided to simply give away books.
With COVID-19, many members of the community need books but can't afford them, even during a book fundraiser.
"We're here to serve the community," Lambert said. That meant giving away books to folks who need a good read during those long, cold days of December, January and beyond.
Not that the organization wasn't taking in a little cash. A freewill donation box was the site of some dollar-stuffing action.
Kasson Library Director Patricia Shaffer-Gottschalk said the library hosted a Free Book Giveaway in September as well, but wanted to offer one more chance for local bibliophiles to take home a little literature before winter set in.
The books being offered were donated to the Friends organization, often with people dropping off books they find cleaning out a parent's house or an overstuffed closet.
"A lot of these books, people will buy best-sellers, read them once and donate them," Shaffer-Gottschalk said. "So people are picking up a practically new book."
Emily Clay, who lives in Oronoco, brought her Kasson-based grandkids to the library's giveaway Saturday.
"We're here just to find some books that they would like to read," Clay said. "The kids have a lot of downtime in the winter. So we'll get a book to read and occupy their time."
Lambert said the September giveaway attracted more than 60 people, and an hour into Saturday's two-hour event, they were halfway to 60 again. As for the free books, the more folks took, the better. The Friends of the Kasson Library have a room inside the building that is full floor to ceiling of tote tubs of books.
Witts, who has lived in Kasson for years, said whether giving away books or holding a sale, the library's event is a big day for readers in town.
"The Kasson book sale is pretty much a staple in the community," Witts said. "A lot of us look forward to this."