Helping Works

Little Free Libraries thrive in Treasure Valley

10th-grader Jordan Liebich with one of the three Little Free Libraries she manages in Boise. She’s part of the popular program that provides a free book exchange in neighborhoods across the U.S. and beyond.
10th-grader Jordan Liebich with one of the three Little Free Libraries she manages in Boise. She’s part of the popular program that provides a free book exchange in neighborhoods across the U.S. and beyond. Riverstone International School

You’ve probably seen them during your travels around the Treasure Valley, brightly painted boxes, some stuck on poles like birdhouses, packed with books, free for the taking.

The Little Free Library program is a worldwide effort that encourages book lovers to install the lilliputian libraries in their towns to help make sure that everyone who wants something good to read can find it, regardless of where they are and of how much money is in their wallets. Treasure Valley residents have embraced the trend. Check out the Little Free Library’s website and you’ll see locator maps for free libraries in the Boise area from the East End to Hidden Springs, as well as library spots in Nampa and Caldwell. You’ll also find one in China (on Wangiian Road in the city of Chengdu, if you were wondering), quite a few in India and a couple in Mexico.

But back to the local front. Riverstone International School wrote to tell us about one of their students, 10th-grader Jordan Liebich, who started installing little libraries when she was in the 5th grade. She’s building her third library to be placed in the Golden Dawn Estates, a mobile home park near her school. She’s also refurbishing the existing boxes she helped establish. So great to see young people like her with a sense of community and a belief in the written word.

We checked in with Jordan for a Q&A about her project:

Q: Why did you get inspired to set up little libraries at such a young age?

A: I got inspired to set up Little Free Libraries during an extensive 5th grade project at Riverstone International School called the Passion Project. During this project, I became interested in reading and the lack of opportunities to read for many people around the world. I wanted to share my passion with others and give Boise an easier, more accessible way to read books. The libraries were an easy way to do this because they can be placed anywhere and are self-sufficient.

Q: How did you stock your first libraries? Did you collect donated books, or donate your own?

A: I stocked my first libraries through donated books at the school which helped get the word out about the project. I felt like it was important to involve the community that would be using the library in its creation. I also donated a lot of my own books. Beyond those methods, I emailed some of my favorite authors such as Lauren Oliver and Hester Velmans and asked them if they would like to donate books to the library. They said yes.

Q: Do you do other charitable projects as well?

A: I am starting my Girl Scout Gold Award project and am planning on creating a new physical education course that will encourage less active people to participate in PE at school. It will be called PE for Poets. Each semester Riverstone has a service day and I always participate in those.

Q: What kinds of reactions have you gotten to the Little Free Libraries you’ve established?

A: At the start of the project, I put a log book in the libraries. People loved that they could easily grab a book without having to search through a public library or buy one. Also, they liked that they could drop off their old books so that someone else could enjoy them. We recently set up our third Little Free Library at Golden Dawn. The first one was at the school. Our class donated the second library to our school auction where a classmate’s family purchased it and we helped set it up in Harris Ranch. This inspired other friends to set up libraries as well. My mentor set up a free library at the Learning Lab and my preschool teacher set one up in her neighborhood.

Q: What subjects do you like in school and what are your plans for college? What would you like to study?

A: I enjoy English, math, and science, and I am planning on studying marine biology in college.

The Little Free Library program is open to anyone who wants to participate. People must pay a small fee and register their little libraries to be official. I suspect there are other little libraries operating “off the grid,” setting up free boxes of books on their own terms. I’ve heard of people making libraries out of salvaged kitchen cabinets, former animal houses and other containers. That’s pretty cool, too. Find the official library map and directions for creating your own charitable library at littlefreelibrary.org.

PRAYnksters are at it again with a new donation, new video

The PRAYnksters, the local group known for their charitable flash mobs and other pranks that end up helping people rather than hurting them, recently told us about their latest trick for good. The group teamed up with Dutch Bros. to help out a local woman, Sherrie, who has health issues and other struggles that make it impossible for her to pay her rent. Recently, Sherrie thought she was meeting friends for coffee. She was, in a way. What she wasn’t expecting was that more than 75 strangers showed up to surprise her with the gift of three months of rent and utilities, thanks to all the generous participants and donors, including local churches.

PRAYnksters has no employees and is only able to operate off the generous donations of others, business partnerships, and through a small eBay store that sells vintage video games. If you’d like to get involved by donating your old video games or in other ways, send a message to the group via Facebook or email at praynksters@yahoo.com. See all the group’s videos on its Facebook.

Knights of Columbus seeks donated medical equipment

The organization provides free medical equipment for people in need and has seen unprecedented demand for items like wheelchairs, transportation chairs, walkers, shower benches, toilets with handles, batteries for electric wheelchairs, etc. The nonprofit has helped 1,800 local people so far this year, said spokesman Bill Kibble.

If you would like to help, call Dale Anderson to make a cash donation at 208-888-3782. If you have items to donate, call 208-869-3480. The organization can make arrangements for pick-up, said Kibble. Once items have been used by clients, they come back to the Knights of Columbus where they’re repaired and re-used.

Veterans Housing Outreach continues at Boise Public Library

Every Monday morning from 10:30 to noon in the Simplot Room on the first floor of the Main Library at 715 S. Capitol Blvd., Bryan Bumgarner from the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans office at the Boise VA Medical Center, is available to meet with veterans to help connect them with essential VA services like housing and medical care. Call 208-972-8255 for more information. Read a past Idaho Statesman story about Bumgarner and how he started this community outreach at IdahoStatesman.com.

Kudos to local music students who stepped up for others

More than 150 students from the local Music Center Studios raised more than $1,500 by collecting pledges for their practice hours to buy musical instruments for children in foster care. The money will buy keyboards and guitars. Then, Music Center Studios will provide free lessons for the children. The young musicians celebrated their fundraising efforts at a public concert in Kleiner Park in Meridian on June 18.

Idaho Community Foundation grant cycles open

The Idaho Community Foundation has two grant cycles open for the southwestern Idaho counties of Ada, Adams, Blaine, Boise, Camas, Canyon, Cassia, Elmore, Gem, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Owyhee, Payette, Twin Falls, Valley and Washington. Deadline to apply for both is July 1.

The Idaho Future Fund grant cycle will provide $100,000 in grants in these categories: preschool scholarships, charter schools, public schools and public school libraries. Find more information online at idcomfdn.org or contact Elly Davis at edavis@idcomfdn.org or 208-342-3535.

The second ICF grant cycle is the Southwestern Region Competitive grant cycle, which provides grants of up to $5,000 to nonprofits in the areas of arts and culture, education, emergency services, libraries, conservation/environment, health, recreation, social services and public projects.

Grant distribution begins in November.

Dodgeball for good

Boise Parks & Recreation hosts the 4th Annual Charity Dodgeball Tournament on July 4 at Shoshone Park, 2800 Canal St. The tournament is open to players age 16 and older. A captains meeting and practice begin at 10:30 a.m., play starts at 11 a.m.

The cost is $5 per participant. Champions will have the opportunity to select from these Boise Parks & Recreation beneficiaries: youth scholarships, AdVenture program for people with disabilities, or playcamps. To register, stop by or call: Fort Boise Community Center, 700 Robbins Road, 208-608-7680 or the Whitney Community Center, 1609 S. Owyhee St., 208-854-6625.

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