Free Libraries in York Maine
Ella knows firsthand that reading and books positively impact
children and can inspire them to become involved in their communities,
help them academically, develop their personalities, and encourage
them to think more deeply and creatively. Books impacted, and continue
to impact, her life, and Ella knew she wanted other children to have
the same affinity and positive experience with books as she did.
Ella researched reading rates among children and adults and discovered that since 2004 the number of Americans who read for pleasure has decreased by 30% and that a Pew Study indicated that 24% of adults hadn’t read a book in whole or in part in over a year. Through her research, Ella also discovered that book-sharing programs can be a catalyst for improving reading motivation and deepening community connectedness. Knowing all of this, Ella connected with the York Public Library and the library director and discovered that declining reading rates in her community was a real issue with fewer people using and frequenting the library.
For her Gold Award project, Ella teamed up with the York Parks and Recreation Department as well as the York Rotary Club to promote reading and start a Free Library initiative. Ella worked with both groups to strategically select six locations for free libraries. Both Ella and her community partners wanted the libraries to be placed in areas where kids and families frequented, most locations were selected based on localities of after school and summer recreation programs. Ella determined that the locations for the free libraries would be successful because through her research she knew that increased access to books is the key to literacy and instilling a joy of reading. Since many of the chosen library locations were on public and town-owned land, Ella had to present and pitch her project concept to multiple agencies including the York Town Selectmen, the Code Enforcement Officer, the York Parks and Recreation Department, the York Library Board of Directors, the School District Superintendent, school principals, and the York Community Service Association Executive and Board of Directors.
Pitching her project concept was a critical step in Ella’s project as it not only gave approval for the placement of her libraries, but it raised awareness of the issue and educated and inspired others about Ella’s project. The largest goal Ella had set for her project was to increase reading rates in the town of York. Each of her libraries house 15-20 books, so she measured the flow of books in and out of each of the libraries. This was achieved by finding and coordinating with a volunteer steward for each library. Each steward has agreed to maintain the Little Free Library. Additionally, Ella reached out to York’s Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops to make them aware that providing and rotating books through one of the Free Little Library locations is a great service project.
One of the challenges Ella faced with her project was town bureaucracy but was able to overcome it through her project presentations. Ella says that “I learned that I am very persistent and that I can have a much bigger impact on my community than I thought. I want to get more books in the hands of kids to share my joy of reading.”