BY CHRIS BRAUER
The idea started in 2009 when a Wisconsin man built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his late mother. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. Anyone walking by was invited to browse, take a book, and return later with a replacement. The idea struck a chord with booklovers and now thousands of Little Free Libraries can be found all over the world. These mini libraries, often the size of birdhouses, help encourage the love of reading while bringing communities closer.
Creston is now home to four of these free neighbourhood libraries. One is similar in size to the original and can be found inside the Creston Visitor Centre (see page 8), but three others make use of upcycled fridges. These fridge-sized book troves were the brainchild of the Creston Leos Literacy Project. Club President Dylan Smith, Vice-President Logan Schmal and Secretary Andreas Kamp discussed how the idea came to fruition and why the libraries are an important addition to Creston. They also spoke of the positive work the Leos have been doing since former ARES principal Rod Giles formed the club two years ago.
“It’s been about a year since we decided we wanted to take on this project,” said Smith. “Mr. Giles returned from New Zealand and told us about the mini libraries [called Lilliput Libraries] and we thought it was something we wanted in our community.”
“We approached Ms. Hawkins at PCSS and she found volunteer art students that agreed to paint the fridges after school,” said Kamp. “We really liked the idea that you can take books out, or return them, or leave new books any time of the day.”
The Creston Leos presented the fridges to the Creston Public Library, Yaqan Nukiy School and the Teen Action Committee. They feature Dr. Seuss characters, superheroes and alien space battles. “We want to thank Vance BrandSource Home Furnishings for donating the old fridges, and Royce’s Appliance and Refrigeration for removing the old gas to make the fridges safe,” said Giles. “But most of all, we want to thank the students at Prince Charles Secondary School and their incredible teacher Karin Hawkins for their outstanding work.”
“I think the libraries are important because it allows people to access books when the library is closed. Someone can find something to read when they go for a walk,” said Schmal.
“And right now the Yaqan Nukiy School doesn’t have their own library,” added Smith.
The Leos have been busy the last couple years, giving back and assisting the Creston Lions Club with their good work. Focusing on humanitarian efforts and environmental stewardship, the Leos focus their time on fundraising activities and community clean-up days. The funds collected go towards assisting local programs. “We’ve been busy,” said Kamp. “We’ve helped fundraise by selling cotton candy, hot dogs, and bundles of chopped wood. We’ve sent Christmas cards to military families and helped with the track meet.”
“We’ve also planted trees and picked up trash. We do the roadside clean-up twice a year – once in the spring and once in the fall – but we also help at Dash for Trash,” said Smith.
“Leo stands for leadership, experience and opportunity,” said Schmal. Anyone between the ages of 11 and 18 can join, and we’ll be accepting new members in September. It feels nice to help other people and be a part of something. It fills me with happiness when I help other people, and I’d like to encourage more people to join.”
“We’re always looking for more members,” said Smith. “I’ve always been someone who likes to organize events and help others, and I think the Leos have helped me focus on doing that.”
“We have a really good group right now,” said Kamp.
Last year, the Creston Leos presented two cheques totaling $850 to the Creston Special Olympics Society. They were also able to raise enough funds to send a lucky recipient to camp at the Creston Valley Wildlife Centre.
Smith and Kamp attended a Lions leadership conference in Castlegar this past year. “There are not many Leo clubs in our area – either in Canada or the US,” said Giles. “Dylan and Andreas were the only two Leos in attendance, but we had a great time and connected with different Lions clubs. They really learned a lot.”
As the Creston Leos Club grows and becomes involved in more community projects, Giles is looking for a co-leader. “It would be great to have someone help oversee events and guide the club. The Leos are a great group and they’re really enthusiastic, and I’m having a great time.”
The Creston Leos Club is for students 11-18 years old. Those under 11 are welcome to help with community events and fundraising. Contact Rod Giles (phone 250-428-5209 or 250-254-0769 or email email@example.com for more information) and check out the Creston Leos Facebook page for more details and past events.