A little literacy

Alumni band together to build Little Free Library

A Little Literacy

By Bob Cunningham

Four Bowling Green State University alumni collaborated over the past year to help spread literacy at the Centerville-Washington Park District near Dayton, Ohio.

In July, the four graduates – Erin Morley ‘10, Jen Brandt ‘99, ‘01, Patrick Hansford ‘83 and Nick Hansford ‘15 – were on a committee responsible for the installation of a Little Free Library at School House Park, just outside of the Dayton suburb of Centerville in Montgomery County.

Little Free Libraries were started in 2009 in Wisconsin by a member of the Rotarian Club, with the impetus, Morley said “… to promote literacy in communities all over by being easy enough to take a book and leave a book, or take a few books and leave a few books and just share reading and literacy.”

The BGSU alumni group, however, had bigger plans in mind.

“When we were meeting with Jen and Erin, they were kind of walking us through and showing us what the Little Free Libraries were all about,” Nick Hansford said. “All the ones that we saw were almost, l guess you could say, like birdhouses. They were a small post and then pretty much a birdhouse to sit on top with books inside.”

Ultimately, Nick and his father, Patrick, came up with a design that resembled a schoolhouse and an outhouse attached to either end of a bench. Patrick is the founder of the architectural firm Patrick Hansford Associates and recipient of the 2015 BGSU College Alumni Award in the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering. The schoolhouse contains adult books while the outhouse has children’s books and is lower to the ground for easier access for kids.

“It was really a collaborative effort. It’s really hard to give credit to one or the other, but I credit Nick for the design work because he ended up having to work it all out,” Patrick said of his son, who graduated from the School of Architecture and Environmental Design in spring 2015. “Nick really developed the ideas for the design, and I ended up doing a lot of the construction drawings and really trying to make the thing work out. We ended up getting it built for free after Erin and Jen secured a couple of grants through donations.”

“It went above and beyond what you typically see in a Little Free Library, which is awesome,” said Morley, who recently started working for Beavercreek, Ohio’s Parks and Recreation.

The graduates didn’t realize they were all former Falcons until they met at the first planning meeting. After the realization, they talked about the hockey team and campus developments.

“Our director was on the Rotary Club and came to Jen, me and the staff to see who would be interested, and we were both very excited about the project. I majored in education at Bowling Green, so reading and is right up my alley,” said Morley. “Then it just happened that Patrick and Nick were BGSU grads, and Jen and I were BGSU grads, and all working together on the project in a very small committee. So that was a lot of fun.”

Brandt earned a bachelor’s degree in recreational administration and master’s in education recreation and leisure studies. She’s worked at the Centerville-Washington Park District for 10 years and said literacy is important to park administrators.

“We have 50 parks in our park district and now that we’ve installed one Little Library, our goal is the get more,” she said.

The Friends of the Washington-Centerville Public Library made the initial deposit of books. If the Little Library runs low on books, they will resupply adult and children’s books.

From the beginning of the project, which started last summer, Nick saw this as a chance to connect with the community.

“My dad kind of brought me in and had me do a lot of the upfront design work, working off the five or six concepts we came up for it,” he said. “So we kind of looked at it a little differently: How could we make this so it’s a little more substantial and something that’s really going to speak to the character of the park and represent all of the people who are going to come to it?”

The project changed Nick’s perspective on what being a star is when it comes to architecture.

“Your professors say you can become a star by designing multi-million dollar museums, but you can also be a star as the person next door, by giving back to the community and helping people use the park and the park district.”

For more information on Little Free Libraries, go to littlefreelibrary.org.