Little Free Libraries Are Sprouting at Local Parks

Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the December issue of Centerville-Washington Neighbors Magazine.

By Jeff Louderback

Brainstorming for an Eagle Scout project idea, 2019 Centerville High School graduate Sean Myers hit upon a creation that combined his career ambition with his love for books.

After receiving approval from Centerville-Washington Park District (CWPD), the University of Cincinnati mechanical engineering major designed a Little Free Library in 2017 to blend in with the nearby soccer fields at Forest Field Park. He was assisted by a team that helped with construction and installation.

“I worked at Woodbourne Library at the time, and I have an appreciation of books and libraries,” Sean explained. “Being an engineering student, I’m fascinated with design. All of these factors inspired me to develop this Little Free Library.

“I walked around Forest Field and saw the soccer fields near the playground, so that gave me the idea for the soccer theme,” Sean added. “Originally there was a soccer net connecting the two boxes; but it wasn’t long before it was removed, because it was popular with little kids kicking soccer balls into it while their parents looked at the books.”

Visiting the library is trending in communities across America, but not in the traditional sense. Just as tiny houses are sprouting nationwide, Little Free Libraries are growing in numbers. These structures are appearing in communities and parks across Centerville-Washington Township.

Simply put, a Little Free Library contains a collection of books; people can stop by to take and/or return a book. The first Little Free Library was built in 2009, by the late Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin. Todd mounted a wooden container, created to look like a one-room schoolhouse, on a post on his lawn and filled it with books as a tribute to his late mother, a book lover and schoolteacher who had recently died. Todd shared the idea with Rick Brooks, and together they built and installed more of the book houses in other Midwestern regions. The idea spread, and the nonprofit organization Little Free Library was born.

There are Little Free Libraries at multiple CWPD destinations. The first one was built at Schoolhouse Park, named after Schoolhouse No. 1, the one-room schoolhouse that once stood across the street from the park entrance. Appropriately the structure of the wooden library is a one-room schoolhouse balanced on the other side by an outhouse, reflecting the time period.

At Iron Horse Park, there is a Little Free Library replica of Old Ironsides, in honor of the Dayton-Cincinnati Railroad that ran north and south through Washington Township.

The Yankee Park project is a true community partnership, requested and funded by the Penbrooke Garden Club, and designed and constructed by a group of Wright State University MBA students. The cheerful sunflower design is a nod to the Garden Club; it includes separate spaces for children’s books and those for adults.

Patrick Hansford designed the Little Free Library at Pleasant Hill Park to resemble the iconic sunscreen at Woodbourne Library. It was a gift from the Friends of Washington-Centerville Public Library (WCPL), to recognize contributions made by Kim Senft-Paras during her time as director of WCPL, from 2009 to 2019.

Drive around the streets of neighborhoods across the community, and you will discover more of these treasures. Sean understands why.

“People seem to love Little Free Libraries because they offer a sense of community,” he said. “They are also visually appealing, and people notice them because of the creativity in their design.”