Las Vegas Review-Journal

CURBSIDE MINI LIBRARIES MAKE NEIGHBORLY ADDITIONS

- By Arleigh Rodgers | A version of this story was posted on lasvegassu­n.com.

In her neighborho­od near downtown, Chris Giunchigli­ani welcomes visitors to her home with a miniature library — a rustbrown box with a glass-windowed front door, perched atop a plank of wood. ¶ It resembles a mailbox, but rather than letters and packages, the library is stuffed with books, magazines and food such as jars of peanut butter, items community members can take home or replace for others to take.

Giunchigli­ani planted her mini library in memory of her late husband, Gary Gray, who died unexpected­ly six years ago. She collaborat­ed with apprentice­s with the Carpenter’s Union Training Center, which designs and builds such libraries using leftover materials.

Now, several mini libraries stand tall around her neighborho­od, the area near Crestwood Elementary School.

The proximity of this elementary school and Innovation­s Internatio­nal Charter School of Nevada invites children’s books and other items into the libraries, said Giunchigli­ani, the former Clark County commission­er and state lawmaker.

Sometimes she will fill the library with dollar-store educationa­l items, like alphabet cards, or book donations from neighbors.

More often, though, the library stays packed because community members drop off their own items. Even things like calendars and eyeglasses make their way to the library for neighbors to pick through.

On the front of Giunchigli­ani’s box is a silver label that reads, in both English and Spanish, “Take a book, leave a book,” and, in English, “In memory of Gary Gray.”

The libraries have served as a key point for Giunchigli­ani to know her neighbors better, and vice versa, she said.

“To me, it’s about building a community,” Giunchigli­ani said. “(The libraries) allowed people to have a comfort level to reach out and actually know their neighbors.”

Mini libraries are not distinctiv­e to Las Vegas, though many residents who reside near East Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway have placed them outside their homes for neighbors to take from for free.

Some residents will build the libraries themselves or order mini library fixtures through organizati­ons like the nonprofit Little Free Library, where customers can purchase the libraries and accompanyi­ng materials.

Rachele and Levi Neshkoff built their own mini library at their home near downtown.

The teal blue box is etched with a quote — “We’re all just walking each other home” — from spiritual teacher Ram Das and drawings of a peace sign,

“I think it’s really important for them to know that we’re here standing with them rather than, we’re here to change their neighborho­od.” Rachele Neshkoff, who has a mini library outside her house for neighbors to borrow from and leave other materials behind, if they choose

yin and yang symbol, and Snoopy doing yoga on a lotus flower. Attached to the side of the supportive wood plank is an overflow container for food and books.

“I want them to know that I’m going to contribute to this community, not take from it,” Rachele Neshkoff said. “I think it’s really important for them to know that we’re here standing with them rather than, we’re here to change their neighborho­od.”

Levi Neshkoff, a building contractor, built the box from scratch using old materials to give it its own individual­istic shape. Compared with the Little Free Library’s boxes, the Neshkoffs’ is single-shelved and more rectangula­r.

“Philosophi­cally, we come from a Buddhist standpoint, and so we want to give as much as we are receiving,” Levi Neshkoff said.

The free mini libraries fill a gap in the community for kids seeking reading materials without a library in walking distance, Giunchigli­ani said.

About three miles away, the East Las Vegas Library at 2851 E. Bonanza Road is the closest to the neighborho­od and provides an array of free services — a multimedia room with DJ turntables, a sound booth, and technology to record and edit audio; a podcast studio; teen-only sections; and a 30-computer lab.

“It’s really rewarding to be able to provide services for people and then see them able to take advantage of that and experience some sort of personal transforma­tion as a result of the work that we’re doing,” acting branch manager Tom Olson said.

Alexander Acosta De Leon, multimedia supervisor at the East Las Vegas Library, said that many of the students who come to the library interested in using the multimedia room — which he oversees — speak Spanish. Clark County comprises 31% Hispanic and Latino residents, according to Census data from August.

Originally from Guatemala, De Leon is bilingual and assists in bridging the gap between non-english speaking library goers, he said. “Being an immigrant, it’s my American dream,” De Leon said.

 ?? STEVE MARCUS ?? Former Clark County Commission­er Chris Giunchigli­ani poses with her dog, Gracie, by a mini free library in front of her home.
STEVE MARCUS Former Clark County Commission­er Chris Giunchigli­ani poses with her dog, Gracie, by a mini free library in front of her home.

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