2016 Civic Engagement Project Spotlight: Little Free Libraries

Leon Fooksman
Leadership Palm Beach County
June 24, 2016

2016 Civic Engagement Project Spotlight: Little Free Libraries


By now, you may have heard about LPBC’s 2016 civic engagement project that helped launch the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County’s Little Free Libraries.


It’s gotten a lot of praise and media attention. The official news release is here.  


We wanted to tell you more about the unique project, the behind-the-scenes version!


So Jennifer Sullivan and her colleagues from the 2016 LPBC Engage class offered to explain in our question-answer article below why they selected this as their civic engagement project, what they ended up accomplishing, and how they worked together to meet their goals.


Let’s start with the basics about the project.


Leadership Palm Beach County helped launch the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County’s Little Free Libraries project by installing 20 miniature take-a-book, leave-a-book libraries throughout Palm Beach County. These Little Free Libraries were made using recycled newspaper boxes donated by The Palm Beach Post and wrapped in a whimsical custom graphic. The committee selected locations in “book desert” locations where there is low literacy rates and no easy access to a public library, and identified stewards to ensure the libraries remain full and in good condition.


Children’s Services Council (CSC) proposed this project because it recognizes the vital importance grade-level reading has not only on individual children but our community as a whole. Studies have shown children who can’t read on grade level by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma. Easy access to books is a crucial part of encouraging literacy.  


What was it about CSC that made you want to work with them?


Our team was drawn to this project because it has a direct impact on the community. We believed that creating and installing the initial 20 Little Free Libraries would allow us to combine our connections to the community with our creative talents. We were not afraid to get our hands dirty…and we were excited to think that we could look around Palm Beach County and point with pride at the work that we had done.


How many hours were invested in the project? 


This was a labor intensive project.  On the administrative side it probably took each member about 20 hours (140 hours in all), but on the physical box assembly, there were certainly a good amount of extra physical tasks, which included getting the boxes from PB Post, fitting them so they would work for our purposes, hauling them to the sign company, getting them covered, bringing them back and then eventual installation.  Which probably will account for another 100 hours.  Because of the physical nature of the project, it just took a lot of time and effort.


How did your work on this project change you?


Anytime you combine both intellectual work and physical tasks, it creates a bond.  Our team members went outside of our comfort zones and some of us learned a bit about using power tools and a good amount of attention to detail with the assembly of the boxes.  There were times when one person could not figure something out, and others helped them to switch tasks and not get too frustrated.  We were outside assembling in the dark with trains rolling by.  Pizza and beer helped us bond.  This is a project to be proud of, and maybe more than any other project, we will get to drive by spots in our community for years to come and know and appreciate what it took to get the libraries going.


Discuss the impact of your team’s work on CSC.


This was a big project and I don’t know how they (CSC) would have gotten it all done with all they need to do on a day-to-day basis.  By starting the project off in a big way, I think they will keep the momentum going to get to their goal of 100.


Is there something new you learned about our community as a result of working on this project?


Understanding that not everyone has books in their homes for kids and how that impacts their future was pretty impactful.  We feel happy to be able to work on something that can impact a child’s future and contribute to the community.