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Seguin’s 10th Little Free Library Showcases Student Project

March 8, 2016

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Throughout the past year, Seguin has welcomed Little Free Libraries into local neighborhoods. Focused on promoting literacy and free book exchanges, the handmade libraries create a sense of community by sharing the skills, creativity, and wisdom of many diverse individuals. The newest Little Free Library—the 10th one in Seguin—was built entirely by TLU students and sits in the front yard of Psychology Professor Tiffiny Sia. It joins more than 36,000 Little Free Libraries across the nation.

During the fall 2015 semester, Sia approached Professor Judy Hoffmann, director of TLU’s social entrepreneurship program, and Business Administration Professor Alicia Olson on possibly building a library using methods from their co-curricular course “COCR 167: The TLU Water Bottle House.”

The class is centered on constructing a potential on-campus structure built using a technique often found in Africa where people build schools out of water bottles filled with sand. The “TLU Water Bottle House” would serve as an important gathering place for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Both Hoffmann and Olson agreed that the Little Free Library project would be a great opportunity for students to learn how to use the sand-filled water bottles in the actual building process, as well as highlight the social entrepreneurship program’s mission of social change and innovation.

“This spring semester, the course ‘COCR187 Building Little Free Libraries with Water Bottles’ had more than 30 students,” Hoffmann said. “This is our first co-curricular class where we’ve successfully built a project using water bottles as part of the building process. We broke ground at Professor Sia’s house on January 24, 2016, and completed the project on March 5.”

Seguin's 10th Little Free Library is located at 1033 Zunker St. in the front yard of TLU Psychology Professor Tiffiny Sia. Students used more than 100 sand-filled water bottles to build the base of the library.

Throughout the class, students participated in numerous construction activities including placing a steel pipe in cement to serve as a base, layering sand-filled water bottles and mortar to build a circular column, creating a concrete form with 3-inch PVC pipes, painting, and building a pathway to the column out of recycled flagstones.

Olson said her students have learned leadership and organization skills, as well as the intricate process of building something by hand.

“This has been a real learning experience for them,” Olson said at the ribbon cutting ceremony on March 7. “It’s taught them problem solving and critical thinking skills, but it’s also shown them how they can have an impact on their community.”

Pictured left to right: Business Administration Professor Alicia Olson, Psychology Professor Tiffiny Sia, and Seguin Mayor Don Keil. Mayor Keil spoke at the ribbon cutting on March 7 where he praised the students and community for embracing the Little Free Library project.

In January 2015, Mark Dibble, associate professor at TLU’s Blumberg Memorial Library, built Seguin’s very first Little Free Library in his front yard. He, along with the librarians at TLU, Seguin ISD, and Seguin Public library, formed a cooperative partnership to become part of the national Little Free Library project.

“The reception has been very good among everyone who sees them,” Dibble said. “When you see kids riding their bikes up to one and taking a book or leaving one for someone else to read, it’s a great feeling. Two of the libraries are at elementary schools and we hope to build more. At the heart of it all, we’re promoting literacy and a real sense of community.”

Pictured at top: Students in the COCR187 "Building Little Free Libraries" course pose with Professors Judy Hoffmann and Alicia Olson next to their finished product.

More About Little Free Library

In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc. built a model of a one-room schoolhouse in a tribute to his mother—a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said “FREE BOOKS.” University of Wisconsin Madison Professor Rick Brooks saw Bol's do-it-yourself project while they were discussing potential social enterprises. Together, the two saw opportunities to achieve a variety of goals for the common good. Bol was a creative artisan experienced with innovative enterprise models while Brooks was a youth and community development educator with a background in social marketing. Inspired by people like Andrew Carnegie and Lutie Stearns, they began the nonprofit, Little Free Library. In the summer of 2010, the first official Little Free Library was put on a bike path in Madison, Wisc. Within a few months, thousands of people had seen the Library. More people started asking for Little Libraries, so they began building them and giving them away with wooden signs and official charter numbers. Through word-of-mouth marketing, their website and a loyal group of volunteers, their reach expanded with a movement centered on the enthusiasm of stewards who often built their own libraries. Some small grants, informal partnerships and alliances began to have an impact on Little Free Library’s ability to keep up with demand. There are now more than 36,000 Little Free Libraries across the nation.

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