Those who stroll around Grey Cliffs Waterfront Park will now be able to do more than just take in the sunshine; they can also pick up a book to read, or donate one, because a Little Free Library has opened there.

The library, constructed by Justin Waid, a junior at St. Helens High School, was placed at the park on Jan. 18, 2019, was registered on the world map on Jan. 27, and was officially recognized in a grand opening ceremony on Feb. 2 at 10 a.m.  

Arts and Cultural Commission Vice Chair Kimberly O’Hanlon said that everyone who attended the ceremony was asked to bring a book as a means to fill the library.

Kimberly O’Hanlon and husband Thomas O’Hanlon decided in January of 2018 to bring the concept to St. Helens, believing the libraries would be a good way to build community. From the beginning, they envisioned the project as a collaboration with the St. Helens High School woodshop class, because they knew that a student could construct the library. O’Hanlon also said that she hopes to build three libraries in St. Helens.

Founded in 2009, the Little Free Library program is “a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world,” according to its website.

The concept is basic: take a book, share a book. In the 75,000 similar libraries around the world, community members are invited to take a book or donate one of their own, in the spirit of building community.

Walking past the design, one might mistake it for a large birdhouse.  Big enough to fit about 20 books of various sizes, the library itself looks like a small wooden house, with a transparent door and inside, a square shelf for stacking smaller books. The library rests on a staff attached to a wooden bench, which community members can feel free to sit on and read.

Joe Mauck, woodshop instructor for St. Helens High School, said that when he was approached by O’Hanlon to do the project, she presented a few designs to him, which he gave three bids for the approximate cost of the projects. O’Hanlon took those bids before the Arts and Cultural Commission, resulting in a $400 overall budget for the three libraries, $118 for the one Mauck helped Waid to design.

The two started working on the project after Thanksgiving. Waid, in his third year of the woodshop program, worked on the project during his first period class, using Mauck for assistance. Mauck said Waid came up with the measurements, and had to learn a few different techniques, like drilling at an angle, and drilling into plastic.

Mauck said this first project will be the most elaborate of the libraries, the other two having simpler designs.

For the first library, Mauck thinks Waid’s handiwork turned out well.

“He’s a pretty good student,” Mauck said. “He had the dedication to work on it all the way through, I think that’s pretty cool.”

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