A "little free library" is based on the concept of a take-a-book, return-a-book free exchange. The libraries come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box supported chest high by a wooden post, and filled with books. They are usually placed in someone’s front yard in a residential neighborhood, with easy access by anyone passing by. The ReBuilding Center is a popular place for gathering building materials for constructing little libraries. Here are three examples.
Exactly one year ago, we featured an article “Girl Scouts' Little Libraries” describing Troop 45642’s design and construction of two little libraries destined to be located in the girls’ neighborhoods. It was important for the girls that the boxes were built with repurposed wood, which they got from the ReBuilding Center. They could have asked their parents for “prebuilt” box kits that average around $250 a piece from the Little Free Library webpage. Instead, they searched through the ReBuilding Center store for materials like boards, glass, cupboard doors, hinges, and roof shingles, and, when finished, used these materials to reimagine designs for their own little library structures.
Building little libraries has a natural appeal for reuse-lovers, and the ReBuilding Center is a logical resource. Two recent examples that utilized RBC's cornucopia of recycled materials include: a structure coordinated by Jeff Azerrad and built by third grade students from Abernathy Elementary School in Inner Southeast Portland; and another from an individual, Bob Staab, for his front yard in Vancouver, Washington.
Jeff, a parent of one of the third graders in the class, explained that the tiny library was built by the 24 students and four volunteers of Liza Springgate’s third grade class. The beautiful end product was used as an item to be bid on at a fundraising auction for the school. Auction items are donated from local businesses and individuals, and in addition, each class creates their own original art project.
Jeff explained: “literacy and a lifelong love of reading is an important value to our community, so building a free library made a lot of sense to us as a project for our auction.” Jeff and the third grade class chose to use reclaimed materials very consciously: ”[We] feel strongly about using reclaimed materials. The reason for me,” Jeff states, “is pretty simple … our society wastes too much and I personally try to do whatever I can to reduce my family's environmental footprint. So this is one way I can do that. Aesthetically I also think using reclaimed materials give handicrafts and art a more interesting look.”
From the ReBuilding Center the class chose to use cedar planks for the walls and floor, reclaimed tin for the roof, and a small window for the door. The children designed their tiny library to look like a little house with a shiny roof. They decorated the walls with pressed copper etchings celebrating the importance of reading.
The idea of creating a tiny library for his neighborhood in Vancouver actually originated with Bob’s wife, Sylva, a long time library supporter in all of the cities they have lived in. Having seen tiny libraries in other communities and cities, they felt their corner lot was a natural site for it, giving easy access for the many walkers and children living in their neighborhood. They deliberately put books for adults and children into the library to encourage cross generational use.
Bob stated that he “enjoyed going through various areas in the ReBuilding Center.” He complimented all the staff as being "very helpful" and appreciated the loan of measuring tapes and saws to cut the cedar siding that he’d selected. He decided to fashion a picture frame into a door on his structure. By replacing the picture inside the frame with clear plexi-glass he was able to fashion an attractive, see-through door.