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The Little Free Library construction crew (L-R): Keshequa Central School's Joseph Bennett, Bradley Bennett, Phil Giambra, Austin Schmidt, Kylee Martindale, and Woodworking/Rustic Furniture Teacher Jim Myers.

 

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Big Start for Little Library
Community unites in local literacy movement

 

Our region's newest library won't enforce due dates or rely on late fees. After all, it will operate with extremely low overhead.

 

18 inches, to be exact.

 

Friday, December 6th will see the public unveiling of this area's newest Little Free Library, a handmade miniature schoolhouse measuring 23- by 25- by 18-inches high. The structure will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the general public to "take a book, leave a book," according to Sarah Matthews, Children's Librarian at Wadsworth Library in Geneseo.

 

"The goals are to share literacy materials for free with the community, and to reach people who are either not able to come to the library, or would not choose to come to the library," she says. "We want to be able to provide — especially for children — early literacy materials right at their school."

 

The Little Free Library is a joint venture between the Wadsworth Library and KidStart, the children's services program of The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming. It will be mounted on a post located just outside of KidStart's Lehman Building, at 5871 Groveland Station Road in Groveland.

 

Little Free Libraries are a national and worldwide movement that offers free books housed in small containers to members of local communities. The idea was popularized in Hudson, WI when Todd Bol erected a wooden container designed to look like a schoolhouse outside his home as a tribute to his mother, who was a school teacher and book lover.

 

As of January of this year, there were well over 5,000 Little Free Libraries, the closest located in Livonia.

 

The newest Little Free Library was initiated by KidStart staff and parents. Head Start Advocate Loni Todisco and parent Laura Rahn were inspired by a news report about the Little Free Library phenomenon. The duo began stockpiling books, and forged a relationship with Friends of Wadsworth Library to further ensure that their key resource wouldn't dry up. Todisco's co-worker Lisa Faulds connected the team with Nunda Lumber owner Dana Russell, who donated wood to be used for the frame of the yet-unbuilt library.

 

"I am an avid reader, and I have been since I was a little girl," Faulds says. "So for me, it is really important to do whatever we can to get the community involved, try to encourage reading, and show just how much fun it is when you give it a try."

 

Constructing a library from the ground up — even a "Little" one — requires big effort. So Faulds turned to Keshequa Central School teacher Jim Myers for his woodworking expertise. To her delight, the woodworking/rustic furniture teacher and a group of his 10th grade students volunteered to build the library at no cost, for the love of literacy.

 

"I have a favorite t-shirt — none of my current students have seen me wear it because I've worn it out — and it says, 'When all else fails, read the instructions.' Another way to say that is 'Before we fail, read.' That's a good saying that I believe in," Myers explains. "For example, I write instructions on the board quite a bit, and the reason I do that is to get everybody to read more instead of just asking, 'What do I do next?' Reading is very important."

 

Building the Little Free Library was a six-week process that allowed students to apply techniques learned in Myers' classroom, and to test new skills. Working from a basic frame that they constructed from the donated lumber, the students crafted windows, a sloped roof, horizontal siding, weatherproofing, and various finishing touches, including a tiny bell tower.

 

"Pro-environment" joined "pro-literacy" on the students' list of priorities while building the schoolhouse. The finished structure is made up of approximately 50 percent reclaimed materials, according to Myers.

 

"That's called 'going green,' and it's right up our alley," Myers says. "Even before we took on this project, our students were tearing discarded pallets apart to reclaim wood for the rustic furniture building and the woodworking that we do. Trees are just too important to our ecosystem. If we can take pallets that would normally probably be thrown in a dump somewhere, and put that wood to good use, we can make a big difference in this world."

 

Myers and his students will be on hand to unveil the mini-library at an 11:00am ribbon cutting on December 6th. Beginning then, the resource will be open to the community at all times, with an ever-changing inventory of books.

 

Initial offerings will mostly be children's materials, with a focus on birth through grade 8. But young adult and adult books are also welcome, organizers say.

 

Exactly which types and titles of books visitors will find in the Little Free Library at any given time is anyone's guess — but that's all part of the fun, Matthews says.

 

"Our goal, of course, is that it will be self-sustainable, and as people borrow materials they will leave a book for others," she says. "But at the same time, we really just want to be reaching people."

 

For those involved with this Little Free Library, a single, time-honored adage applies: Good things come in small packages.

 

"You know, this is called a 'Little' Free Library but it has a very large impact on who it is going to affect," Myers says. "This local effort is part of a national project; it's all around our country. We're part of a revolution!"