SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Four new libraries are coming to South Kingstown this weekend, thanks to a Boy Scout on a mission.
Eagle Scout candidate Clark Swanson, a South Kingstown High School junior, has been working with his father and some Scout friends to build four Little Free Libraries. Swanson, 17, plans to install them Sunday morning at the town’s four elementary schools.
“There are usually unused books in a box at the school,” Swanson said. “This is a chance to get those books back into circulation. Kids can also bring in their own books, take one or leave one. It can be a fun place to go at recess, too.”
The idea to install the libraries came from Andrea Davis, the K-12 literacy and reading coordinator for South Kingstown Public Schools. Davis saw a Little Free Library near the Theatre By The Sea while riding her bike, and started using it.
“I thought, this is such a cool idea,” she said. Davis thought the schools could use them to loan out surplus books.
Several inquiries led her to Swanson’s father, Eric, who teaches at the South Kingstown High School woodworking shop.
“We’ve put in at least 10 hours working on each library,” Eric said. Clark and some friends had just finished painting two of the small wooden schoolhouses on Tuesday.
Eric said Clark was searching for an Eagle project. Clark is part of Troop 138 in West Kingston.
In order to attain the highest Scout rank of Eagle, a candidate must plan and implement his own community service or improvement project. It’s also a project that’s close to Clark’s heart, since he attended Matunuck Elementary School.
This is the tenth anniversary of the Little Free Libraries.
In 2009, Todd Bol created the first Little Free Library book exchange and placed it in his Hudson, Wisconsin, front yard in tribute to his mother, who had been a teacher.
Ten years later, his idea has snowballed into a worldwide book-sharing movement. There are now more than 80,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and more than 90 countries, from Argentina to Zambia, according to littlefreelibrary.org.
Little Free Libraries can pop up anywhere – at playgrounds, parks, schools or athletic fields – and are an easy way to promote reading and sharing, supporters say.
Part of the charm is that each library is as unique as its builder, and usually is made out of materials on hand or easily available at a hardware store.
That’s the case with Swanson’s four models, each designed to resemble a one-room schoolhouse of the past.
“It’s funny, because there are a smattering of one-room schoolhouses still around,” Eric said.
Each has a shingled roof and is topped by a tiny working bell in a tower.
“I might try to get a small string so that kids can ring the bell,” Clark said.
The libraries are painted to match the school colors of each elementary school.
Each has a wide door with a clear front window to view the available books. The door is fastened by a hook.
Each library will have its own unique registration number from littlefreelibrary.org that will allow people to find the library using an online world map.
Davis thinks they will be a hit with parents while they wait to pick up their children at the school. Perhaps a younger sibling will be interested in a book, she said.
Each library will have its own faculty caretaker at each school, and also will be within the site of school cameras to prevent vandalism or misuse.
Sunday’s dedication will begin at 8 a.m. at Matunuck Elementary School, then move to Wakefield Elementary School at 9 a.m., Peace Dale Elementary School at 10 a.m. and West Kingston Elementary School at 11 a.m., and the public is invited. Attendees are encouraged to bring a children’s book to donate to the libraries.
Clark and other Scouts will dig a hole at each school, put in a post and then mount the library on the post.
“A fun project,” Eric said.