TRAVERSE CITY — Keegan Kaipio would rather skateboard than read.
But when the former Boy Scout needed to complete a community project as a requirement for becoming an Eagle Scout, he did a 180 and decided to research and build Little Free Libraries.
“It’s something that wasn’t too complex to do and it benefits the community,” said Kaipio, 15, of Traverse City, whose project also had to demonstrate his leadership and management skills.
Little Free Library is an international movement of free book exchanges that promote literacy, community and the love of reading. An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 of the mini-libraries have been built worldwide and placed in neighborhoods, downtowns and other areas to encourage kids and adults to “borrow a book, leave a book.”
Traverse Area District Library sponsored the first registered Little Free Library in northern Michigan nearly a year ago with the goal of inspiring others to create their own. So when Kaipio approached TADL Marketing and Communications Manager Kristen Talaga with his plan to build several of the libraries, TADL chipped in with a materials budget of $280 and paid $175 more to register the libraries with the official Little Free Library organization.
“We gave him full creative license,” said Talaga, a steward of a Little Free Library in her own neighborhood. “We weren’t sure what we were going to get in return but we were very pleased. They’re really well done.”
The five, one-of-a-kind libraries are crafted of plywood with Plexiglass doors and painted to resemble a barn, a potting shed, a landscape and an American flag, among other designs. They’re finished with hinges, latches and doorknobs or handles from the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Kaipio said he enlisted the help of his dad, Dave Kaipio, scoutmaster Ron Holtcamp and members of Boy Scout Troop 35 to cut, sand, glue, nail and paint the libraries using a basic blueprint from the Little Free Library website.
“It’s pretty fun,” said the Traverse City West Senior High sophomore. “The hardest part was getting everyone to follow directions. My favorite part is once we got them finished and they were all touched up. I feel like they all came out really nice.”
The 24-inch by 20-inch by 25-inch libraries will be auctioned off this week in a Silent Auction at the Traverse Area District Library. The auction is part of National Library Week April 14-20.
Bidding opens at noon today and closes at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 20, with a minimum bid of $100 each. Bidding forms and more information are located next to the libraries, on display in the lobby.
“It’s a perfect thing for a group to come together on,” said Talaga, who encourages neighbors to team up to bring a library to their neighborhood. “Communities Matter is the theme of this year’s National Library Week and what better way to celebrate community and the libraries (big and small) that serve them.”
The winning bidders will be notified Monday, April 22, and will receive Little Free Library information, installment instructions and a Little Free Library plate with registration number that can be used to submit library photos and stories to the Little Free Library organization.
Talaga said proceeds will support TADL’s Teen Services summer reading program.
For more information visit www.tadl.org/littlefreelibrary.