Students open tiny library in Castle Rock

Community effort aims to inspire more reading

Teacher Diana Hyland demonstrates the newly installed Little Free Library as her students wait to fill it with books. Renaissance Expeditionary School students coordinated the project at Castle Rock's Metzler Ranch Community Park. Photo by Jane Reuter
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Students at Castle Rock's Renaissance Expeditionary Magnet School hope the free-standing library they opened near a community park inspires smiles along with imagination.

On April 9, they stocked the single shelf of the Little Free Library, officially opening the tiny branch of a global system. The weather-tight wooden box, which features a Plexiglas window that offers a peek at the titles it contains, is erected on a post along a sidewalk in Metzler Ranch Community Park.

“You can take a book and leave a book, so others can enjoy them as well,” said student Ellie DeBeer. “It helps make the world a better place.”

“If someone's sitting on a bench in the park and sees it, I'm hoping it will inspire kids and even adults to read,” said student Summer Offenhartz.

The Little Free Library operates on the honor system. Unlike the traditional library, borrowing a book doesn't require a library card, and there are no specified due dates or fines. While students are committed to monitoring, restocking and changing the books secured in the box, they invite community members to not only borrow books, but add their own. They plan to install collection bins in several Castle Rock locations to help the collection grow.

Students stocked the Little Free Library with a variety of books, including fiction and nonfiction titles and children's and adults' books.

“The special thing about the Little Free Library is it's books for all ages; it's not just for kids,” said student Lila Massan.

Librarian Diana Hyland, who spearheaded the effort, said the students instantly jumped on board.

“There was no hesitation,” she said. “This was something they believed in.”

So did Principal Deborah Lemmer, who sprang for the $400 cost of the Little Free Library container. The Town of Castle Rock's Parks and Recreation department donated and erected the post on which it stands, making it a community project.

The Little Free Library started in Wisconsin in 2009 when a man built a model of a one-room schoolhouse and filled it with books as a tribute to his mother. It has since grown to include an estimated 15,000 worldwide.

Renaissance student Ethan Holmes hopes their Little Free Library is a catalyst for others.

“People might be inspired and tell their school about it and it might start spreading,” he said.

For more information, visit littlefreelibrary.org.