Little red barns will soon be popping up around northern Pocahontas County, but they aren’t for livestock or hay. These red barns are for books.
The Seneca Woodlands Women’s Club recently finished a two-year project to create Your Little Libraries – small book repositories which resemble very large birdhouses.
The project began with a simple suggestion from club member Louise Burner, who saw several little libraries during her travels and, after doing research online, she found the Little Free Library organization which helps communities estabish their own libraries.
“It sort of came to me as something in a rural area that people need,” Burner said. “Even though we have a great library system here, wouldn’t it be nice to walk downtown or walk down the road a little ways with your kids to the little library and teach them about trading books and donating, and that sort of thing.”
The club members were excited about Burner’s suggestion, and it wasn’t long before they were making plans and raising funds to construct three little libraries.
Burner said her goal was to get as many organizations and individuals in the community involved in the project as possible, and members managed to find plenty of help.
“It was Mali Minter’s idea to get the [PCHS] carpentry class involved in building them,” Burner said. “That was two years ago. She started talking to [Duane Gibson] and the first year they made a model – a prototype for us to look at. They made it for the forest service, and it’s in Marlinton. It’s not used as a library. It’s used for their literature.”
The club liked the prototype and paid to have the students build three for them.
Once they were constructed, members of the club took turns painting the libraries bright red and getting them ready for their future homes. A few youngsters also got involved by painting miniature quilt trail squares which will decorate the outside of the libraries.
“We decided to put quilt squares on the sides,” Burner said. “Those are the quilt squares that are from the quilt trail – the traditional quilts that are a part of the quilt trail that were actually language for people that were on the Underground Railroad.”
Burner’s daughter, Alison Flegel, chose four quilt designs and drew them on wooden squares for the children to paint.
For each library, there is what is called a steward – an individual who will act as a librarian of sorts. They will make sure there are plenty of books and that the library stays clean and useable.
Two of the libraries have been assigned – one at the Burner Homeplace in Cass and the other at Dean’s Den in Frost – with the other one waiting for a steward and location.
“We’re thinking maybe out Wesley Chapel,” Burner said. “We don’t want it in Green Bank. We really thought about putting one on the main drag, but they have a library there, so we’re thinking more about areas off the beaten path.”
The club hasn’t registered with the Little Free Library organization yet, because to do so, the club would have to pay to have official plaques for the libraries. The club is considering using that money, instead, to build more libraries, but may register later.
“If we do register it, we can be a Little Free Library,” Burner said. “That title is their copyright title. I think it’s important for everybody to know that we got the idea and we got the information from this non-profit. Their website has all kinds of resources there. They have plans that you can download to build them. We didn’t do that. We had the carpentry kids develop it.”
Using the libraries is simple – take a book, enjoy it, bring it back or pass it on. Also, if you have a book you don’t want anymore, put it in the library for others to enjoy. At this time, Burner said she has plenty of books to fill at least eight little libraries, but said the club would be open to donations later.
The libraries have books for all ages and welcomes readers to explore and expand their reading list.
The club has not decided if they will do more little libraries, but they are excited to share the ones they have and hope people enjoy them.
“The only way we’re ever going to change the literacy rate and the educational level of a society is for them to be reading; reading all the time; reading lots of things,” Burner said.
There are three official Little Free Libraries in West Virginia – Harrisville, Grantsville and Spencer. For more information on the Little Free Libraries organization, visit littlefreelibrary.org/