Less than a minute after Girl Scout Troop 1066 installed a Little Free Library outside McCreesh Place on North Davidson Street on Aug. 19, they had their first customers.
Elise Ernette, who lives across the street in the Villa Heights neighborhood, said she had read about the library on Facebook and had been waiting for its arrival.
“My boys love to read, but it’s always when it’s a new book,” Ernette said. As she spoke, her three sons, ages 3, 5 and 7, sat on the sidewalk with books they’d pulled from the library.
Troop 1066’s Little Free Library is part of a growing movement that began in Wisconsin in 2009 to install freestanding boxes filled with books on posts around the world. People are invited to take and leave books.
Thirty-one Little Free Libraries are registered in the Charlotte area, and there are more installed by various community members that are not on the website’s registry.
The library was the first group project for Troop 1066, seventh-graders who attend South Charlotte Middle School. Each girl drew a poster-size design, and the group voted to use Ella Fox’s concept.
With help from Randy Patterson, troop leader Bethany Patterson’s husband, the girls cut wood, assembled the library and painted it over a series of weekend meetings.
The teal-and-purple box has a black roof and miniature flower boxes filled with artificial flowers on two sides.
The group connected with McCreesh Place, a Supportive Housing Communities project that provides permanent housing to men who were marginalized, through Troop 1066 parent Jenni Walker.
This free book exchange is connecting Supportive Housing Communities residents with people from surrounding neighborhoods.
Jenni Walker, parent of a Girl Scout Troop 1066 member
Walker said she knew the organization would be a good fit for the troop’s service project.
The library now sits on a pole in front of the McCreesh Place building.
“It’s really rewarding and powerful knowing that this free book exchange is connecting Supportive Housing Communities residents with people from surrounding neighborhoods,” Walker wrote in an email.
The day of the installation, the troop brought cookies, piles of books and the library to the sidewalk outside McCreesh Place. They took turns screwing the library box to its post, then filled it with books for all ages.
McCreesh Place leaders joined the girls for the official opening of the Little Free Library before giving them a tour of the building.
“We have 90 men who live here and many of them like to read, and some don’t have the extra money to buy books,” Supportive Housing Communities Executive Director Pamela Jefsen told Troop 1066.
I wanted to help spread the joy of reading to people who did not have any books.
Madison Cail, member of Girl Scout Troop 1066
She praised the troop for helping foster relationships in the area.
“Already we are (building) community with the residents here and the people of Villa Heights because of the work that you did,” she said.
Some troop members said the Little Free Library is a way to promote reading.
“I wanted to help spread the joy of reading to people who did not have any books,” said Madison Cail, 12.
Several noted that the Ernette family’s visit was an unexpected bonus.
“It meant a lot of to me to see people coming up the sidewalk to the little library we built,” Madison said. “I was so happy, and I knew that the work we did was worth seeing more and more people reading every day.”
Seventh-grader Zoe Wojnowich called the library an “imagination outlet” and said that it “brings together the community when you can read a book someone else previously enjoyed.”
“I can’t wait for the Little Free Library to really get people reading and enjoying it,” she said.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Little Free Libraries across Charlotte have been installed by individuals and groups. They can be mail ordered pre-assembled, built from kits or individually designed.
The movement has become about exchanging books and “bringing people together for something positive,” according to the Little Free Libraries website.
The Library Foundation Friend’s Council in Mecklenburg County has helped install 12 Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods and small parks throughout the county. The council also has installed boxes at the Shamrock Senior Center and Joyland, a home day care, both in East Charlotte.
“They’ve been really embraced,” said Friends Council Chairwoman Heather McCullough.
More than half the libraries the Friends Council has installed have become self-sustaining, with users taking and leaving books. The council restocks its other Little Free Libraries when necessary.
“They are just in neighborhoods where books are so needed that people are keeping them,” McCullough said. “We think that’s a good problem to have.”