Commonwealth Journal

January 25, 2014

Pulaski Elementary students complete ‘Free Little Library’ project

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — It doesn’t take much to share a love of reading — just a collection of books and a small, unassuming box to store them.

That’s the idea behind the “Little Free Library” project, carried out by Pulaski Elementary School students who are participating in the extracurricular Student Technology Leadership Program. The project began at the beginning of the school year, and has since culminated in the creation of a small box-like structure, slated to be placed at the Main Street Dairy Queen.

“The kids have gotten the structure built and we have collected some very good quality used books,” said Sue Stickley, counselor at Pulaski Elementary School and sponsor for the STLP program there.

The idea of the Little Free Library isn’t a new one — although it hasn’t taken root yet in Pulaski County.

According to information from the Little Free Library website at www.littlefreelibrary.org, the grass-roots effort began in 2009, when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc. built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. Bol filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. The effort was a big hit in his community, and the box that said “FREE BOOKS” became known as the Little Free Library.

The idea spread across the U.S. quickly, and a number of the structures can even be found in Kentucky — although the nearest one is in Richmond, according to an interactive map at www.littlefreelibrary.org.

“We just thought ‘Somerset could use that,’” said Stickley.

The idea has even gone worldwide. The small structures can be found in Britain, Italy, Africa, China, Japan, and Australia, among other locations.

“Ours is going to be on that map, too,” said Stickley.

The mission of the Little Free Library organization is to promote literacy and help communities share in a love of reading through the free book exchange idea.

That lines up perfectly with the STLP students’ goals.

“Our primary goal is to increase literacy,” said Stickley.

Stickley said people will be able to take a book from the structure at all hours, and she said the library works on an honor system. Although people can choose to keep the books — “No one can steal them because they’re free,” said Stickley — the program is centered on the idea that people can leave a book at the same time they take one.

“It’s a self-serve little library,” said Stickley, who noted her students, since the project began, had collected hundreds of books to be used for the library.

“It’s something for the community that everyone can afford at no cost,” said Stickley.

Stickley said the students presented their project at the regional STLP showcase — where projects are judged on their potential impact on the community — and were able to move on to the state competition.

Stickley said STLP projects must use technology that is either instructional or community-based.

“I think this is definitely more community-based,” said Stickley.

Stickley said the students pitched the idea of the Little Free Library to Dairy Queen owners Gene and Daniel Cheshire. She said they enthusiastically agreed to allow the Little Free Library to be placed on the downtown Dairy Queen property.

“That was the number one choice where to put the library,” said Stickley. “It’s well-lit, (and) it’s pretty there.”

Daniel Cheshire said they were glad to take part in the project. "These kids are great, and this is a great community project," said Cheshire. "We were thrilled they chose Dairy Queen."

Cheshire commended the students for "spearheading this thing," and said it didn't take long for them to decide to join in the project.

"We jumped at the opportunity," said Cheshire.

Cheshire said there have even been some talk of possibly putting a second Little Free Library at the Dairy Queen located on South U.S. 27. He said an upcoming remodel at that location may provide the perfect opportunity to include another small structure stocked with books.

"We're going to try to make room for that," said Cheshire.

The Free Little Library, as of Friday, was stocked with books and operational.

Stickley and the students are hoping to have a ribbon cutting sometime soon, weather permitting.

For more information on the Pulaski Elementary School STLP Little Free Library, go to www.facebook.com/peslittlefreelibrary. For more information on the international effort, go to www.littlefreelibrary.org.