Tag Archives: little free library

Awesome Project: Free community book swaps at Seattle transit hubs

Kristina’s throwing in her copy of Cloud Atlas. Alex is going to donate his copy of Tipping Point. Another teammate is adding (meditatively?) Siddhartha to the stack. But these are just the first few in what they hope will become a very, very large pool of titles, because what Kristina Krause and her justifiably fired-up team leading this ioby campaign really want is all the books. That’s right. They’ve got big ideas about how to make Seattle’s public transportation system more inspiring, and they need all the books you’ve got lying around at home. You won’t get your own books back, but you will have the pleasure of knowing you’ve turned someone else’s mind-numbing commute into a journey of literary discovery. And they just might do the same for you.


Here’s how it’ll work. On November 21st, Kristina and her team – a group of public transit and library enthusiasts who regularly brainstorm over Facebook – will, at ten public transit hubs in Seattle, set up drop boxes for books: a free, communal library of sorts. While you wait to catch your bus to work, see if anything in the box catches your eye. If you do spy a tempting title, just enter your name into the logbook, and it’s yours for as long as you want it. Take the book home if you like, and drop it back in circulation anytime, at any of the drop points, along with whatever else you might want to contribute from your own personal library.

It’s an idea that’s already taken flight at Cape Town’s airport: the FlyBrary, which has been up and running, steadily gaining popularity, and completely sustaining itself, for 4 months now. Could book sharing be the next frontier in inspirational transit?

To be clear, Seattle’s not short on readers or on books; it’s been ranked the second most literate city in America for four years running, and Alex Epstein, one of Krause’s ioby teammates, says that many of his fellow public transit commuters already read to pass the time. But there’s something just that extra bit comforting, that extra bit exciting, about selecting your reading material from a collective pool – being a part of the community in that way. “It’s also being a part of the Seattle cultural brand,” says Epstein, who wants to see Seattle become the first city with a public transit-driven free community library.

“We need to save our transit system,” says Epstein. “A lot of people use it, but not enough. You have to wait for half an hour for your bus, and then it’s a bumpy ride. We need to make it more entertaining.” It doesn’t seem so hard to imagine that if ridership and general enthusiasm went up, the city might feel more confident about investing in and reviving the infrastructure itself.


The team is working with local artists and welders to create free-standing book boxes, which will look similar to the ubiquitous newspaper machine, only beautiful! And no two will be alike. Someone’s old file cabinet, for example, has been earmarked for repurposing as one of the initial ten book boxes.

Better yet, the book boxes will serve as community bulletin boards, too, where Seattle’s public library might advertise, say, a lecture with Cornell West, or a “lunchtime story” event. Epstein says the team wants to make more accessible the sorts of “thought leaders that people might not even know about, if they don’t visit the library.” To ensure that they reach Seattle residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds, the team has mapped out their initial 10 sites with diversity and traffic density in mind. They want to bring library services to new audiences. Free books, free advertising for libraries, and a – dare we say it – fun commute? What could be more Seattle than that, and what could be better?

And speaking of new audiences, the team wants kids on board, too. “We just want all the books,” says Epstein. “We’ve been thinking about how exciting it would be to have kids books. That’s so hard as a parent – taking kids on trains. That would be a beautiful gift to parents.”


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The ioby Trick Out My Trip opportunity is funded by Transit Center.


Awesome Project: Pittsburgh Children’s Discovery Garden

One afternoon in April 2013, located between North Graham and North Aiken Street in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Leah Thill anxiously awaited the arrival of neighborhood volunteers. Thill, then 23, was a first year AmeriCorps participant with the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE) and garden coordinator at the Kincaid Street Community Garden. The plan was to fill ten more new garden beds with soil, which involved transferring several hundred pounds of dirt from piles to wooden framed sections. Not an easy task! But, no adults showed up that day.

Photo by James Souder.

Instead, Thill was joined by an army of ten enthusiastic neighborhood kids, no older than thirteen years of age, who worked all afternoon to haul all of the dirt with just one wheel barrow and a few orange buckets. As most kids tired after two hours, Thill recalled one young boy who, as he kept the dirt flying with a wide smile on his face, burst, “This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time!”

It is this kind of excitement that inspired the creation of the Children’s Discovery Garden, a special section of the Kincaid Street Community Garden designated especially for the neighborhood’s children. The community garden had its first season during 2013, and while it began to bring the members of Garfield together in new ways, it became clear very quickly that there wasn’t enough planning or programming to engage the youth who wanted to be involved.

Photo by James Souder.

“I would just be out in the garden and [they] would come and want to help, but they didn’t really have their own space and they would want to water everyone’s plants, and they would want to weed everything. I think some of the adults felt a bit encroached upon.” Thill explained, “We really wanted to make gardening and the garden a place where they could be and have their own space.”

The creation of the Children’s Discovery Garden is a community driven effort, made possible by the collaboration of about twenty families, PULSE participants, like Thill, who live communally in a house adjacent to the garden and neighborhood volunteers with the Garfield Community Action Team (GCAT) who are involved in fundraising for the garden and coordinating volunteer events to the make the expansion happen.

Between the construction of a Little Free Library by GCAT and a local youth art gallery, Assemble, signage differentiating the herbs, tomatoes, and berry bushes, and special gardening time on Wednesdays from 6pm until dusk, the Kincaid Community Garden members have been working hard to create a special place for the children.

One of the most challenging aspects of trying to do agriculture in an urban area is how expensive it is to bring in all of the soil, lumber, and other necessary materials. But this community is unstoppable in their determination and creativity. Instead of spending $2,000 dollars to build a fence, they made their own garden fence out of pallets donated to the garden by a local hospital, and the Little Free Library was constructed entirely out of doors donated from a company non-profit called Construction Junction. Jarmele Fairclaugh, age 43, a regular garden volunteer who has lived in Garfield for twenty years, said, “What I keep telling [the children] is, ‘It’s hard work now, but just wait until things start growing.”

And, according to Fairclaugh, the children are learning a lot more from the garden than just patience. They’re growing vegetables they’ve never seen and seeing the benefits of earthworms.
“It’s teaching them to get along with each other. It’s teaching them to be responsible, not only for themselves, but for other people’s property. It’s teaching them that you can work with all types of people. They’re learning how to interact with other adults, they’re learning how to interact with other races,” said Fairclaugh. “It’s teaching them to have pride in their community and pride within themselves.”

Even beyond the children, Kincaid Community Garden has been a uniting force in the neighborhood. With parts of Garfield and many of the surrounding areas experiencing rapid gentrification and rising rent prices, a gathering space that strengthens communities through shared experiences and the creation of relationships built on trust and friendship has become ever more valuable.

“I think as a neighborhood as a whole, we needed [the garden] because it just seemed like we never talked to each other,” explained Fairclaugh. “For me, it gives me a chance to actually get out and meet people and learn something and then be able to share that knowledge with other people.”

And there is no better place to start that sharing than with the neighborhood children. With your support, the Garfield community can continue to become stronger through the communal experience of growing food together in a place that nurtures curiosity and fosters exploration in young and old alike. Thank you to everyone who contributed financially or donated their time and energy to make the Children’s Discovery Garden expansion come to life.