The Book Thing reopens on Saturday after a fire damaged the building in March of 2016

Posted at 5:50 PM, Oct 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-12 17:50:57-04

The smell of lumber fills the warehouse of The Book Thing in North Baltimore. Stacks of boxes filled with book are waiting to be stocked on the shelves.

It's just days away from the reopening of The Book Thing and executive director Russell Wattenberg says he doesn't have time to think about how he will feel on that day.

"It doesn't exist until it happens," he said. "I'm going to keep on planning for it and keep on getting ready for it but all I see is the things you gotta do."

Luckily, Wattenberg has volunteers to help him whittle down the to-do list of building bookshelves, stocking them with books and getting the renovated space ready for the readers of Baltimore.

Wattenberg was forced to temporarily close his charity after a fire seriously damaged the building in March of 2016. He lost 200,000 books that morning.

"It really hurt me when I loaded it all into dumpsters," he said. "In another way, I knew there were more books out there. As soon as we rebuilt, we get the word out, we'll keep on getting more books."

And in the year and a half he's been closed, Wattenberg filled 7,000 boxes with donated books. It reaffirmed his decision not to walk away from his beloved charity.

"I decided I just couldn't let the fire beat me. I just couldn't see giving something up that I worked so hard for and the community had worked so hard for just because of a fire."

The Book Thing will officially reopen on Saturday October 14 at 9 a.m. Hundreds of thousands of books will be available for people to take at no charge.

You can also find free books at the Peabody Heights Brewery across the street.