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A bit of lumber and paint, some screws and nails, a pane of glass and hardware, a shared vision and a plan. That’s how the Barton-Graves Little Free Library came to be.
Beth Searcy, Barton College’s first lady, has been contemplating the possibility of a Little Free Library for several years, but it wasn’t until she had a conversation with Fike High School’s 2020 graduate Gabe Cox that this project idea began to materialize last summer. He was searching for an Eagle Scout project, and she was hoping for a way to bring a Little Free Library to the college’s neighborhood.
“I have been familiar with the Little Free Library network, and I wanted to add one as a way to connect the Barton-Graves House with our neighbors, Searcy said. “The Barton-Graves Little Free Library, located on Vance Street behind the Ladwig Garden at the Barton-Graves House, is registered with the Little Free Library network, which includes over 100,000 LFLs around the world.”
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.
“I am an avid reader, have been a volunteer reader in local classrooms and enjoy book clubs and discussions,” she continues. “Through the Barton-Graves Little Free Library, I hope to share a passion for learning and build community with neighbors. Books are a gateway to knowledge, creativity and adventure, yet I know owning books and having easy access to reading material is a privilege. Our new Little Free Library installation is a physical representation of what Barton offers the community — an opportunity to grow, access to new ideas and possibilities, and a commitment to our collective potential.”
Searcy explains that the purpose of the Little Free Library network is book access, which is the foundation of literacy development. She adds, “My hope is the Barton-Graves Little Free Library will connect the president’s residence with our Wilson neighbors to nurture a love of reading and passion for learning. Anyone is welcome to use it, but the primary focus is outreach to neighbors who might not have other resources that are close by or convenient.”
When Searcy mentioned her idea for a Little Free Library, Cox decided to adopt the book-sharing library as part of his Eagle Scout project. Since that initial conversation, Cox has constructed and recently installed the Barton-Graves Little Free Library, as well as another library box at Gillette Field. With some carpentry guidance/assistance from his uncle and his dad, Cox put approximately 91 hours into completing the two little free libraries.
Searcy and Cox collaborated on the permitting process and historic preservation permission. She adds, “I shared a vision and a hope, and Gabe gave it form and functionality.”
Cox shares that he had been eligible to start his Eagle Project for some while, and he had brainstormed a few ideas, but it was Searcy who inspired his final decision. “She introduced me to the concept of the Little Free Library and showed me some examples of lending libraries around Wilson,” he said. “I decided this was something I could execute. Ultimately, I hope these libraries are something the community can enjoy together. I want to thank Barton College, the parks and recreation department and the city of Wilson for working with me eagerly and transparently.”
Searcy notes that the Little Free Library books are free and available to anyone, anytime. Borrowers can return books or share them with others. “Book availability will vary; the Barton-Graves Little Free Library has been initially stocked with novels and teen to adult fiction, but it could include children’s books or other selections,” Searcy said. “Books will be refreshed whenever possible, and donations are welcomed. There are not any rules other than to embrace the spirit of the system, which is to increase accessibility to books and to build a passion for literacy and learning.”
For more information about LFLs, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/about/.