VOLGA – Virginia Schlimmer’s love of reading made her want a Little Free Library. She got some help from Boy Scout John Stirling II, and now the eye-catching miniature red barn sits in front of her house on East Fourth Street in Volga.
The idea behind a Little Free Library is simple: Build a small structure and fill it with books. People come by and take the books they want and bring them back when they’re done reading them, or if they want to keep those books, they replace them with others. That way there’s a constant, changing supply of reading material.
Fittingly enough, Schlimmer read about it somewhere, then did more research online “and saw how many varieties there were out there and knew I wanted one,” Schlimmer said.
She tried to persuade one family member to make it, but he didn’t get to it.
“The topic came up at my book club. I said I wanted to make this Little Library, and I haven’t got anyone to build it,” she recalled. “Somebody suggested perhaps an Eagle Scout prospect was looking for a project.”
Schlimmer called Scout Master Terry Molengraaf, who gave her Stirling’s name and number.
“I thought it was a great idea,” said Stirling, especially since he figured it would appeal to the people who give the stamp of approval to Eagle Scout projects. It worked: he was presented his Eagle rank in a ceremony last month.
A member of Troop 56, Stirling is an 18-year-old senior at Sioux Valley High School and plans to attend South Dakota State University.
He was starting the project from scratch, though.
“I have heard of (Little Free Libraries), but I never saw one before,” Stirling admitted.
He also took to the Internet to get ideas from pictures, talked to some people, and drew up some plans.
Schlimmer said there’s all kinds of examples online: strange ones and even some not really suitable for our climate, “far as one’s imagination can take them, I guess,” she said.
Schlimmer wanted the library to be weather-proof to protect the books, and she was partial to one design: a barn.
“I lived on a farm most of my life,” Schlimmer said.
Stirling liked the vision.
“There’s a lot of farms around here” and it reflected a local flavor, he said.
Although Stirling didn’t have carpentry experience, he knew who did: his dad, John Stirling.
“Apparently, he’d built a lot of cool stuff when he was in his shop class. There’s this huge armoire stand (at) my grandma’s house, and it’s really nice,” Stirling said.
In addition to help from his dad, some of Troop 56 pitched in with painting and assembly. There were about two months of prep work and about two weeks of building, but Stirling is happy with how it turned out, especially the added details.
“I was surprised when my dad brought in shingles. Put those on there and I got really happy ‘cause then it just looks more authentic,” Stirling said.
Schlimmer shares his enthusiasm.
“Yes, very pleased,” she added.
Even after the library was finished, Stirling contributed a little more.
“I had the first books in there,” he said. “I’ve been advertising it throughout school, letting all the teachers know.”
Schlimmer thinks activity will pick up when the weather gets warmer, but she has seen folks stopping by. Nobody should be shy about using it, she said.
“It’s self-serve,” she said with a laugh.
She plans to keep it well-stocked.
“I have a lot (of books) that I know I won’t read again,” she said, but she’s looking for more children’s books to keep youngsters coming back. Some folks have offered to bring their own books over.
The Little Free Library has been in her front yard for a while now, and she’s heard from people that it was a good idea, Schlimmer said, and some have commented they want one for their own yards.
“It is the only one in Volga,” Stirling said.
“I asked at the Brookings library and they did not know of any in Brookings. They only knew about the one in Aurora,” Schlimmer said.
She would be happy if more Little Free Libraries would spring up.
“I just hope it will advance the love of reading which I’ve had since I learned how. It really expands your world, I think,” Schlimmer said.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]