OUR LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES
First United Methodist Church of Stillwater, MN
by Ann Haraldson
This project began early in 2016 when many members attended the program at Stillwater Public Library which was sponsored by the St. Croix Branch of the American Association of University Women. The program’s speaker was Todd Bol, who is the founder of the Little Free Library organization which has libraries placed all over the world. The libraries hold books for the taking to be read and then exchanged for another or placed in another free library somewhere else. The mission is to bring neighborhoods together by creating a special place where they can gather and the Little Free Library boxes became that place. He created his first Little Free Library in memory of his mother. The company is based in Hudson, Wisconsin and many of our members toured the facility in the Spring. A little flicker of hope was instilled in our hearts that day. The hope to bring the idea to fruition with building and registering two Little Free Libraries for our church membership and surrounding neighborhood.
The idea to build two libraries was presented to the Administrative Board and with the support of the Pastors and the board the idea blossomed as part of a goal for our church to grow in our community as part of the Growing in Love of God and Neighbor theme.
A small committee was formed and with the help of the Welcoming Team’s support, along with funds generated from the Winners’ Circle bake sale and many volunteers our libraries’ plans were initiated. We created our libraries with the desire to connect our church family more with Sunny Hill Preschool and our local neighbors in our church area.
We had received the Little Free Library book from the Stillwater Library program and used that as our source as to how to get started in the actual building process. What to buy, how to build, and how to launch our library once built were all part of the plan. One never really knows how long a Little Free Library takes to build and our goal was not just to build them but we had the added bonus of involving many people in the final process to create our own little community of believers.
We began building in mid-June in Dennis and Mary Harcey’s garage. Ted Gilbert, Mike Haraldson, Tom Ash, Dennis Harcey and Chuck Leifeld became our core builders with Ann Haraldson guiding the process along. Their expertise was invaluable. Planning, buying supplies, measuring, cutting, nailing and just thinking became the plan. The buying of materials was accomplished as the ideas were decided upon. As we finally got our first library cut out, we decided to use those pieces as a pattern for a 2nd library which worked out very well. Each step had lots of thoughts being generated, but the “guys” were really into it and watching them create was a delight right down to details of the roof and its shingles, the window trim, the latch for the door, the Plexiglas on the windows and door.
It was now time to begin the creative portion of the plan so Vicki Anderson, Linda Ash and Ann Haraldson put their thoughts together. Pastor Donna Buell shared the idea that many of the libraries in the book showed similarities to the building they were going to be placed near, so the idea of a brick building was created and it reflected some of the design elements in our church building. The painters really created the effect of a real brick structure. The second library was to be for children as we have a connection to the Sunny Hill Preschool so the idea of a “schoolhouse” and a “sunny hill” were formulated. Ted Gilbert was our small bushes and trees man and cut those little pieces upon request. Thank you, Ted, they really made the libraries come to life. Our painters included Vicki Anderson, Linda Ash, Ann Haraldson and Amy Gustafson and their work carried these ideas as you can see in the libraries we have created. We needed shingles so a plea was sent forth with materials received from Cy Delorme and Mike Haraldson.
Now the libraries were built and next came the posts to be buried in the ground. Here we sought out men with post hole diggers and we contacted Chuck Leifeld, Ben Jackson, Joe Hibberd and Mike Haraldson to give us a hand. John Burtzlaff shared his tool, but had a back injury the day we were going to dig so we missed his help. Ann Haraldson even helped pour the water in to set the fence cement product. The next to the last step was to protect them so she gathered oil based urethane and brush and finished that task.
We have registered our Little Free Libraries and the signs with our numbers will allow our libraries to be placed on the map on the Little Free Library website. This identifies our libraries as official structures on the international scale.
Placing the libraries on those posts knowing they will hold our Little Free Libraries for many years to come is a good feeling. We celebrate a job well done as we set them up to be registered Little Free Libraries filled with books to be taken, read and shared with others in our neighborhood.
Our team of book selectors was Linda Ash, Pat Greupner, Vicki Anderson, Sharon Docksteader, Kathleen Ramsay, Amy Gustafson, Sue Hibberd, Pastor Donna, Chris and Dave Nelson. We hope to continue to utilize these libraries to grow more with a literacy plan for a future goal. Our theme of Come Grow with Us is coming alive.
We dedicated them on Rally Day 2016 in the sanctuary with the children and congregation hearing a small portion of this story as Pastor Donna gave a talk about how the idea came to be. As part of an intergenerational Sunday school project that morning, bookmarks with statements about the joy of reading were created and those in attendance used their creative talents to color them and these were laminated to be placed in our Little Free Library structures.
We launched the libraries after worship in an unveiling on Sunday, September 18th. We had them covered outside, had a reading to encourage the use of these new Little Free Libraries, and had a short talk by Pastor Donna and Ann Haraldson. Balloons drew attention to our new Little Free Libraries on both Myrtle and Greeley Streets, a sign inviting neighbors to take a book, share a book and enjoy reading were posted, and the libraries were stocked with books. We hope to add a landscaped area to enhance our spaces around the libraries in the near future.
A photo board was created and this story was written to announce how the building process evolved, to thank all those who gave of their time and talents to bring our Little Free Libraries to our neighborhood and to generate a true love of reading for the future.
Thanks goes to all those who helped bring this idea to completion.
Very special thanks to Ann Haraldson, the shepherd of this project from start to finish!!! – Pastor Donna
For more information about the origins of Little Free Library (in the St. Croix Valley), and its spread across the country and around the world, visit the Little Free Library website!