Little Free Libraries
By APRILE RICKERT
NEW ALBANY — When students from Clark and Floyd County schools set out to do book drives to stock the Little Free Libraries that are spreading through the community, Arts Council of Southern Indiana executive director Julie Schweitzer said she was amazed by the results.
“I thought I’d get 50 books,” she said. “I got 1,200. I thought, ‘What am I going to do with all these books?’”
Schweitzer has been working with youth philanthropy and art groups to plan, design and install 24 Little Free Libraries throughout the communities over the next two years. The program launch was funded by a $15,000 Community Foundation of Southern Indiana Catalyst Grant and retired newspaper boxes were donated by the News and Tribune. Grey and Wells sanded and primed them.
To date, three boxes have been sponsored by funds raised, designed and implemented — the CFSI’s Youth Philanthropy Council and students from Leadership Southern Indiana’s NexGen program were at the helm, and brought on students from art clubs at Providence, New Albany and Silver Creek High Schools to complete the projects.
Eventually, students organized book drives at high schools across the counties as well as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where one of the most recent boxes is housed. When Schweitzer found herself with boxes and boxes of books in the basement, then came the idea to turn this space into a library.
She made a call to PC Home Center in New Albany, which donated materials for the project. Barbara Bertram, a volunteer at the Arts Council through the National Able Network, said she knew some things about carpentry and loved books, so she offered to build shelves and categorize the literature. It spans all age groups.
On Saturday, the Arts Council cut the ribbon on the brand new PC Home Center Little Free Library Book Repository. Residents can come and read in the space and bring book clubs after calling for reservations. At this time, the repository is used to refill boxes in the program. Schweitzer said that others in the community can use the repository for their Little Free Libraries if they become members of the repository. All that’s required is to contact Schweitzer and hold a book drive.
The CFSI Youth Philanthropy Council members raised more than $2,000 for the project, according to a news release from May. One, designed by Providence High School students, sits at Port Fulton at the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville.
The $1,000 per box sponsorship goes toward costs associated with implementing it; $300 is paid to the artist, in this case the high school art programs, Schweitzer said. Paint, supplies, concrete foundation if needed, registration and opening reception costs also come out of this. The affiliated boxes are also supplied with lifetime books from the repository.
Students in the New Albany High School art program designed and built the one at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Albany. Rosie Brown, both a YPC member and the main designer for this box, said they based the design on the architecture of the church.
“It is basically the same stone design and it has vibrant red details because of the doors that the church as,” she said. “And we did ceramic birds on top of it to symbolize community and faith.”
She said she wants to be part of more of the Little Free Libraries — her family is already planning to create one together on their property.
“It symbolizes community and I think that’s a big part of it,” she said. “It brings our community together and gets people to sit down and enjoy the art aspect of it. They can just sit down and read a book and it’s 24 hours a day so you can get one whenever you want.”
Through Leadership Southern Indiana’s NextGen program, group members executed a box installation at Silver Creek High School.
Crystal Gunther at the CFSI said the projects are in line with the Community Foundation Needs Assessment study published in fall.
“The Little Free Library project really leverages a lot of different areas with regard to education, arts and culture,” she said. “There’s an arts component, community development (and) it has kind of a community ownership piece to it.”
Schweitzer said the books have started to travel farther, too. When she started noticing RVs parked outside the Arts Council on Market Street, she realized they were accessing the box they have outside. When people travel in this way, they can return books to boxes states or even countries away.
The fourth box is slated to be installed soon at Schmitt Furniture in downtown New Albany. The company is a naming sponsor in the program.
Schweitzer said this next library will kick off the new year and new projects.
“As soon as school goes back in, we’re going to do this again,” she said. “I think I’m going to aim it at the high schools again. It’s so much fun; they take so much ownership.
“I’m hoping this thing just keeps perpetuating.”
Read this story at the News and Tribune