Who tore down the little LGBTQ+ library in downtown Wake Forest? Owners vow to replace it

Someone cut down a little library supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Wake Forest, and the business owners behind the library are calling it a hate crime.

“Just because no one was physically hurt (doesn’t mean) it’s not a hate crime,” said Chris Batts, who co-owns Heritage Floral Design with his husband, Christian Fessler. “It was something that was dedicated to a marginalized community.”

Batts and Fessler opened their flower shop in downtown Wake Forest eight months ago. A Girl Scout troop asked them to support an LGBTQ+ affirming little library and they jumped at the chance, Batts said.

Little Free Library is an international nonprofit that encourages people to build small, free community libraries. They are often in wooden boxes that resemble large birdhouses or in newspaper boxes no longer in use.

The library box stood on wooden post painted white with colorful hand prints on the sides at the intersection of Elm Avenue and South White Street. It had “LGBTQ+” written in rainbow colors alongside a transgender pride flag.

The little library went up in late June, and in early August, a customer brought in her daughter’s old books to help fill it.

“She posted a really nice photo of her daughter putting a thumbs up in front of it, you know, and posted it on Facebook and social media and just kind of spread it everywhere,” Batts said. “And within an hour we were getting threatening messages.”

They reported the messages to the Wake Forest Police Department, which told them there was little they could do about the online messages. But after that there were no other problems with the library until last week, Batts said.

“It kind of went from zero to 100 very quickly,” he said. “It went from just online hate to it being cut down.”

The business closed for Thanksgiving and, when it reopened, the little library had been cut down. Batts shared before and after photos on their business’s Instagram page, asking people to spread the word and report anything they knew.

Batts said he’s experienced bigotry and hatred before but he’s sorry for the Girl Scouts who may be experiencing it for the first time.

“This project was supposed to bring the community together and give the community something it hadn’t had before,” he said. “The premise of a little library is to give back, and someone was so bothered by what this little library represented and who it represented that they got in the car, at night, on a holiday, with an axe and cut it down and stole it.

The Wake Forest Police Department is investigating, according to town spokesperson Bill Crabtree, and anyone with information can call 919-435-9610.

Friends, customers, other Wake Forest businesses and other wedding service industries reached out to support Heritage, Batts said.

“No one from the town has offered to help or even extended their apologies,” he said. “They haven’t said anything. They haven’t shown their support, they haven’t expressed condolences. They haven’t offered to start the rebuilding process.”

The business has a GoFundMe online campaign to raise $3,000 to replace the library. As of Friday afternoon, nearly $2,500 had been raised from over 70 donations.

“We are planning on rebuilding it bigger and better,” Batts said. “And, honestly, gayer.”