The Eastern Trail in Scarborough now features an unusual structure – a library.
A new Little Free Library, which was erected through a partnership between the Scarborough Public Library and the Scarborough Kiwanis Club, stands adjacent to the trail parking lot off Pine Point Road.
The goal for the little library, part of the international Little Free Library network, is to provide free books for youngsters, young adults and adults, as well as to help build a sense of community.
“The Little Free Library is a wonderful way to build a sense of community while encouraging reading,” Nancy Crowell, director of the Scarborough Public Library, said. “There is a wonderful serendipity in browsing a (Little Free Library) collection. You never know who will have left what title. (And while it’s) not essential for a library visitor to return or donate a book, the spirit of sharing encourages an exchange.”
The Little Free Library on the Eastern Trail has gotten a lot of use in the month or so since it was put up, said Joyce Leary Clark, president of the Kiwanis Club, with Kiwanis members replenishing the stock of books available multiple times already.
This little library is the second one in Scarborough, according to Crowell, who said that Emily Read, president of the library board, also has a Free Little Library in her Windward Lane neighborhood, which includes a geocache, as well.
And, on Saturday, Sept. 17, another Little Free Library will go up at Memorial Park in Oak Hill, according to Sherry Forest of Ron Forest & Sons Fence Co., in town, which has provided the posts, copper roofing and doors for the little libraries on the Eastern Trail and the new one planned for the park.
Crowell said the public library approached the Kiwanis Club about partnering on the Little Free Library project on the Eastern Trail because “we knew about (their) Read around the World program and knew the club would understand the value of promoting literacy and community through this project.”
Clark said Kiwanis members knew instantly that the Little Free Library project was something they “were definitely going to do” as soon as Crowell finished her presentation to them this past spring.
“The focus is on children, including teens, because we want to encourage them to continue reading for enjoyment,” Clark said. “It’s just great to get books into the hands of kids, and we’re always on the lookout” for donations.
The initial stock of books, Clark said, came from the K-Kids Club at Wentworth School, which has students in third through fifth grade.
“We asked them to donate any books they thought other kids would like,” she said.
While the Eastern Trail is most used in the late spring and summer, the Little Free Library will be stocked with books year round, said Clark, who added that members of the Kiwanis Club have “adopted” the little library for a month at a time.
There are nearly 40,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, according to the organization’s website, “bringing curbside literacy home and sharing millions of books annually.”
The Little Free Library movement first began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc., built a model of a one-room schoolhouse in tribute to his mother, who was a teacher and who loved to read, according to the website.
Bol filled the structure with books and put it on a post in his front yard.
“His neighbors and friends loved it, (so) he built several more and gave them away,” the Little Free Library website said.
The Little Free Library organization was officially created in 2012 and since then it has spread around the world.
Overall, Clark called the Little Free Library on the Eastern Trail “such a neat project.”
Forest, who is the office manager at her father’s fencing company and who is also active in the Scarborough Kiwanis Club, said the project “just seemed like a good thing.”
“The focus in Kiwanis is about encouraging children to read and boosting literacy. It’s important to get kids reading and off their electronic devices.”
While Forest is now fully on board with the Little Free Library, she first thought the idea was a little strange until she saw a photo posted by a little library user on the Kiwanis Club’s Facebook page.
“I saw the picture of a 3- or 4-year-old girl in a stroller with a book in her hands and the post said she just loves to read when we take our walk,” she said.
That’s when Forest fully realized the value of the new little library.
In addition to encouraging reading, she said the little library also teaches kids to “be respectful and learn to borrow and return books or even learn to take one, give one.”
The new Little Free Library next to the Eastern Trail in Scarborough allows people to share books with other trail users.
The Little Free Library movement got started in 2009 in Wisconsin. Now there are thousands of such little libraries all over the world.
A closer look
Anyone who wishes to donate books to the Little Free Library should contact Joyce Leary Clark through the Kiwanis Club website at www.scarboroughkiwanis.org.