Terralyn Magofna, left, and Emma Adamson place one of four Little Free Libraries on a wooden stand at Elm Street School in Mechanic Falls on Thursday. Two classes of sixth-graders spent about two months raising money, collecting books and building, before putting the libraries around town. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

Books in the Little Free Libraries are free for the taking. Organizers hope users will return the books after reading them, and donate other books to the libraries. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

MECHANIC FALLS — Artist Vincent van Gogh said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

The sixth-grade class at Elm Street School worked on that notion Thursday when it proceeded to set up four Little Free Libraries throughout Mechanic Falls.

The book-sharing sites will be the front yards of homes on Oak and Water streets, the Elm Street schoolyard and the tennis courts by the Municipal Building.

Less than a month after Lowe’s Home Improvement delivered a load of lumber, the students, led by teacher Valerie Young and her carpenter husband, Darrell Young, built five miniature libraries that should hold more than 20 books each. A fifth library, in the shape of a bench, will soon be placed in the center of town, at Maisie Keene Park next to the Little Androscoggin River.

Kaylee Niskanen, left, and Bella Coltart carry the Little Free Library they helped build, while Mahdis Verrill brings along some books for inside the library at Elm Street School in Mechanic Falls on Thursday. Two classes of sixth-graders spent about two months raising money, collecting books and building four Little Free Libraries, before putting the libraries around town Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

The concept is simple: You take out a book to read or, sometimes, you leave a book, so the titles keep changing. It is operated under the honor system.

The Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization begun 10 years ago in Hudson, Wisconsin, by Todd H. Bol, who built a miniature library in the shape of a schoolhouse and placed it in his yard in honor of his mother, a teacher and avid reader.

The idea to build and erect these small-scale libraries in neighborhoods soared not only in the United States but worldwide. The Little Free Library website reports that more than 80,000 libraries extend into “90+ countries, from Argentina to Zambia.”

Although ideas and design plans are available through the website, Young said the students formed into groups and each group came up with its own concept and plans drawn out on graph paper.

One group fashioned the library as a school bus, another devised it as a phone booth, two others are small houses with shingled roofs. Darrell  Young did the trimming and framework, and the students did the sanding, finishing and painting. Young wanted the students to be kept involved in all aspects.

Max Bachelder, left, holds the door open as Gage Carlton and Jack Desrosiers, right, put books into the Little Free Library, near the Mechanic Falls Town Office on Thursday. Two classes of sixth-graders at Elm Street School spent about two months raising money, collecting books and building four Little Free Libraries, before putting the libraries around town Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“They used the math they actually learned,” he said.

The students also raised their share of the funds for the project by selling popcorn and juice, parents and residents contributed, and Lowe’s donated the building materials. More than $1,300 was raised.

Valerie Young also credited Chris Frazier, Suzanne Marston and Carol Pollard in assisting her and Darrell in the endeavor “to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity” — the credo of the Little Free Library.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: