Ever been to a park, keeping one eye on the kids but wishing you had a book for the other eye?
Problem solved, at least in four Homewood-Flossmoor Park District parks.
One enterprising Eagle Scout candidate, a team of volunteers, three sponsoring organizations have collaborated this summer to install four Little Free Libraries, one each in Homewood’s Millenium and Patriot parks and in Flossmoor’s Leavitt and Goldberg parks.
Troop 342 Scout Henry Heligas decided to construct the four LFLs as part of his Eagle Scout qualifications.
“I was looking for something that was kind of unique and permanent. That was the appeal of it,” he said.
Little Free Libraries are informal neighborhood book exchanges, often housed in structures that Heligas said look “like big bird houses.”
The Little Free Library movement began in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, and has spread around the country and internationally. The organization estimates there might be as many as 15,000 worldwide. At least three Little Free Libraries have been created in Homewood recently.
Those are individual projects placed near homes. Heligas’ project takes the concept further by creating four LFLs in public spots. The effort was designed to meet the Eagle Scout criteria.
“It has to show planning, development and leadership,” he said.
Heligas, a sophomore at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, started putting together the plan in May. He approached three local organizations, the Friends of Flossmoor Library, the Friends of Homewood Library and Homewood-Flossmoor Park District. All three agreed to sponsor the project.
“We had not previously considered Little Free Libraries in our parks before Henry brought the idea to us, but we loved the idea,” said Debbie Kopas, executive director of HF Park District. “The park district supports projects that get people outside and active. Reading is an activity that provides benefits for a lifetime, and hopefully users will walk or ride bikes to visit the little libraries, so it’s a win-win.”
The park district helped Heligas select the best sites for installation and will keep an eye on the LFLs over time, notifying Heligas if there are any maintenance needs.
The two Friends organizations were also enthusiastic about the project. Heligas said his idea was welcomed, and the questions he received were about implementation details.
Terry Fiorenzo, president of Friends of Flossmoor Library, said the LFL concept was a new one to him, but it was one his group embraced when Heligas presented it in June.
“We just thought it was a great idea,” he said. “I’m sure mothers and fathers who take their kids to the park will appreciate it. Maybe they won’t have to carry as much stuff to the park.”
He also praised Heligas’ planning and presentation.
“He’s very organized,” Fiorenzo said. “I’m sure it will be done in an efficient manner.”
The Friends of Homewood Library had considered the idea in the past but hadn’t chosen to pursue it until Heligas approached the group, according to FOHL President Lori Whitney.
“Since we were familiar with the project and supported the idea, his proposal easily passed the vote to contribute to it,” she said.
Both Friends organizations agreed to provide financial support and to supply books as needed.
Enlisting the sponsorship of the three organizations was among the first steps in making the project work, but Heligas then needed to gather materials and form a team for building the LFLs.
On Sunday, Aug. 24, his team of adults and kids gathered at his home to construct the four LFLs, and Heligas had a well-designed plan in place, dividing the workers into two teams, one for cutting pieces to his specifications, one for assembly of the parts and one for applying the initial coat of primer paint.
Heligas supervised the operation, occasionally providing instructions and tips, and checking to make sure work flowed smoothly.
His construction team included Eli Kebschull, Jonathan Hill, Trowa Hill, Ted Rappata, Kevin Berner, Brennan Eaheart, Brian Eaheart, and his stepfather, John Millen.
His mother, Megan Millen, director of Flossmoor Library, advised along the way.
“He planned it all out in advance,” she said. “We talked about worse-case scenarios.”
Heligas seemed pleased with the pace and quality of the work being done. And Saturday, Sept. 13, at 3 p.m., everyone in the community will have a chance to see the result.
Heligas and his sponsors are hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Goldberg Park to officially open the new Little Free Libraries for business.
Everyone is welcome. And as the LFL motto says, “Take a book, leave a book.”