Rewriting Stories of Hope with Little Free Libraries By: Tara Bansall
During the summer before my senior year as a Girl Scout, I embarked on a service project
that involved building and installing a ‘Free Little Library’ for a family shelter in Fairfax. My Take Action project aimed to install a postbox-sized outdoor library at the shelter, providing children with access to a diverse range of free books. Motivated by the desire to share ﬁction and nonﬁction books that I had enjoyed reading as a child and wanted to repurpose, I sought to address the issue of limited educational resources and libraries, particularly inlow-income areas and homeless shelters.
My intent was to install postbox-sized libraries ﬁlled with free books that children could use to entertain , educate, and expand their minds with. The project helped me use a variety of skills to make progress and stay motivated. Effective communication played a vital role as I reached out to multiple shelters, proposing my project. Resilience aided when many of the shelters refused the project due to concerns of maintenance or county regulations. Persistence ﬁnally paid off when a family shelter in Fairfax agreed to have the library installed on their property. Scheduling and time management helped in coordinating with my skilled Aunt, who assisted me in building the library from scratch. Patience became essential during the extended building phase, where waiting for paint to dry or wood to be cut in the wood warehouse tested my resolve. I learned that doing something for others provided not only mental joy, but also helped me make memories with loved ones. I enjoyed my summer learning how to buy wood planks, do carpentry, cut wood, paint, and create libraries, all while bonding with my dear Aunt! Additionally, I infused an artistic touch by painting fun designs on the library's exterior, aiming to engage and captivate the children's interest while fueling my creativity at the same time.
The journey from an idea to installing a little library was not without challenges. Initially, ﬁnding a shelter or apartment complex willing to host the library proved diﬃcult. Numerous calls and emails to over 20 low-income buildings and shelters yielded no positive response. Concerns regarding maintenance and land-use laws hindered progress. Nevertheless, I continuously reached out to shelters and refused to be deterred by rejection. Eventually, the Katherine Hanley Family Shelter accepted my project and enthusiastically allowed me to contribute to the well-being of the children in their shelter. The installation and maintenance of the library presented formidable tasks, yet through building a strong relationship with the shelter, maintaining constant communication, and unwavering commitment to action, the project reached completion. I vividly remember the feeling of accomplishment as I installed the ﬁnal part of the library in the rain, collapsed into my car, but satisﬁed myself knowing that I had made a meaningful impact.
In conclusion, my journey as a Senior Girl Scout creating a Free Little Library for a family shelter has been profoundly rewarding and impactful. This ‘Take Action’ project not only provided children in lower-income area and shelter with access to a wide range of books, but also addressed the issue of limited library educational resources. By repurposing unused books, the project helped recycle and save the environment. The installation of the postbox-sized outdoor library at the Katherine Hanley Family Shelter in Fairfax has become a gateway to knowledge and imagination, fostering a love for reading within the shelter community and oﬀering opportunities for growth of intellect. I look forward to visiting the shelter, reﬁlling books and seeing the joy on children’s faces as they excitedly pick a free book!