Little Free Library concept comes to Waterloo - Republic-Times | News

Little Free Library concept comes to Waterloo

By on April 26, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Pictured at the Little Free Library ribbon-cutting with St. Paul United Church of Christ members, Andy Mayer and his daughter, Arabella, hold the scissors as daughters Madeline Mayer (left) and Juliana Mayer look on. (Kermit Constantine photo)

The unveiling of Monroe County’s first registered Little Free Library at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Waterloo on Sunday brought about a new chapter in the community for readers and non-readers alike.

“Last year, I had the idea that I would love to have a Little Free Library in Waterloo,” said Andy Mayer, the brains behind the idea. “Being a reading teacher, spreading my love of literacy has become a passion.”

The Waterloo Junior High School teacher took that inspiration and re-purposed an old newspaper receptacle as a Little Free Library on the church grounds. Such a library allows someone to take a book and either return it or leave a different book in its place.

“The good thing about Little Free Libraries is that there are no late fines,” Mayer said.

Little Free Library is a global organization with a vast number of libraries in Illinois alone. The non-profit’s mission involves “increasing book access and forging community connections,” states.

“Students have access to books from the school library and the public library, but I wanted an even easier way for them to have access when they are in town,” Mayer concurred. “I also love the idea of a community sharing the experience of reading and lending books to each other.”

The church’s Little Free Library includes a mix of children’s, young adult and adult books with a bench built next to it for people to sit and read. Getting this just right involved a lot of moving pieces, Mayer explained.

“As I began this process, it truly became a community project,” he said. “Republic-Times general manager Kermit Constantine donated an old newspaper receptacle and Eric Van Buren sandblasted it to get all of the rust off.

“After painting it, Alysia Brinkmann donated the vinyl letters and designs and Kinzinger Construction donated the rock used for the landscaping around it. Dean Hirsch and my parents helped landscape and St. Paul UCC donated the bench.”

Now, Mayer’s idea is gaining steam as students and teachers alike are beginning a Little Free Library project of their own. Mayer said the WJHS Student Council hopes to host a grand opening for its Little Free Library being built at the school on May 12.

“There were no Little Free Libraries in Waterloo (before Sunday), but by the end of the summer, there will be at least three,” he said.

WJHS paraprofessional Julie Jennings is in the process of crafting library No. 3 on her front yard in Waterloo and hopes to complete her’s next month. Jennings is choosing a German theme for her library after traveling to Germany as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in high school and also traveling to Austria while studying German in college.

“(My dad and I) are constructing what we hope looks like a building in Bavaria — Swiss chalet-like with flowers in window boxes. I plan on having something inside that will display a German word of the week,” she said. “I love this type of architecture and just hope we can recreate something similar (on a small scale).”

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years.