Haines Family creates Shoemakersville Little Free Library
“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” wrote author Stephen King, and a Shoemakersville family is spreading that magic all over town with the installation of their new Little Free Library.
The Haines family – Steve, Alison and their children, Sadie, 9, and Stevie, 6 – recently held a ribboncutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Little Free Library they built in front of their home at 701 Main Street. The twofoot by three- foot library is bursting with books that will appeal to both children and adults. The best part is that it’s open twenty- four hours a day.
“A few years ago, a friend told me about the concept of a Little Free Library,” Ali Haines said. “Last summer, my children and I were playing at the Kutztown Park and came across a Little Free Library there. I thought it was great that so many kids, there to play on the playground, were also going up to the Little Free Library to take a book. My daughter took one – The Naked Mole- Rat Letters – and it has become one of her favorites.” Inspired by her daughter’s love of the book, and the way she received it, Haines researched the Little Free Library website and began to formulate her own idea for a book- borrowing box in her neighborhood.
Relying on repurposed materials and her husband, Steve’s, construction know- how, Ali used items that have particular, and sentimental, significance to Shoemakersville and the Hamburg school district.
“Before the old Perry Elementary School was taken down in 2013, they held an auction of the remaining furniture and other items,” Ali explained. “The old library book drop box was beautifully built so we bought it and it sat in our basement for a few years.”
When it came time to build their Little Free Library, Steve, a material handler at Reading Truck Body, outfitted the drop box with a vintage glass vanity door and built the legs out of an old bed frame. The roof tiles are old Hamburg school district library circulation cards from the past 40 years, which were laminated and top- coated with clear enamel to make them waterproof. A piece of slate from St. Luke’s old church roof forms a supporting piece at the bottom of the library.
“This little library is bringing a part of the old Perry Elementary School back to Shoemakersville,” said Ali. “The library book drop box started its life receiving books years ago, and we wanted to continue in that spirit by offering books to the community.”
Once the library was completed, the Hainses filled it with many of their own books and welcomed donations from friends to round out the supply. The anticipation to see who the first borrower would be was exciting.
“After our ribbon- cutting on Aug. 20, we waited and waited on our porch, but no one came,” said Ali. “Just as we were leaving in our car, someone walked up and took a book from the library. It was so gratifying to have that immediate connection, to see someone, who may not have even known what it was, using the library.”
To increase awareness of the site, Ali created a Facebook page for the Shoemakersville Little Free Library, or LFL, which is registered through the non- profit organization. Information, directions and even GPS coordinates help users to find LFLs all around the world.
According to the website, Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Its motto – “Take a Book, Return a Book” – fits in well with the Haines family’s dedication to community service. They hold an annual lemonade stand to raise money for the Animal Rescue League, volunteer for the Shoemakersville Children’s Carnival and can often be seen cleaning up trash at the Shoemakersville playground.
In addition, Ali coaches softball, T- ball and basketball, serves as the secretary of the Perry PTO, where she runs the book fair and Reading Is Fundamental program, and instituted and led the Crazy Eights Math Club for three years at the school. Steve also coaches T- ball, basketball and soccer. “My family loves to read so this is a natural result of our interests and our desire to give back to our community,” Ali said. “Sometimes, Shoemakersville endures negativity due to reports of vandalism and crime, but that belies the true nature of this neighborhood, which is filled with good and kind people. It is a wonderful place to raise our family.”
Since installation of their LFL, the Hainses have counted at least fifteen users. Ten have signed the guest book, which Ali included so that people can leave comments and get in touch if they have books to donate. There is even a little container of dog biscuits for their furry friends. “The response from the community has been awesome,” Ali said. “We are merely the stewards of this little library. Our hope is that the community will take ownership of it and our role will be in merely providing the building.” The sign on the side of the library reminds neighbors, “Keep calm and read a book!”
Feel free to visit the Shoemakersville Little Free Library at any time to take or add a book. For more information on building your own Little Free Library, go to www. littlefreelibrary. org.
Stevie Haines, 6, and Sadie Haines, 9, co- stewards of the new Shoemakersville Little Free Library, stand in front of their home at 701 Main Street after a ribboncutting ceremony to open the library.