Students make little libraries for city parks

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 23, 2016


TROY — The second-graders at Troy Union Elementary are putting the finishing touches on three Little Free Libraries, to be filled with books at three city parks. 

The Little Free Library nonprofit organization aims to offer free books in small containers. The finished libraries resemble large birdhouses. 

Mike Cottone, interim principal at Troy Union, explained that the second-grade project is part of The Leader in Me schoolwide initiative, which he said develops student leadership skills. 

Other service projects underway this year at Troy Union include raising money for Calen4Kids, the Michigan Humane Society, the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Sole Hope and Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.   

Cottone said The Leader in Me program is based on Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” 

“We’re trying to take those habits and bring them to the student level. The service projects have unified the school community and make a difference in a much larger, grander scale than we thought possible. It’s been amazing to see what they’re able to do,” Cottone said.

Troy Union second-grade teachers Susan Zemmer, Ashley Cardenas and Eric Andary have worked with their students and parents to create the three libraries, which are approximately 15 by 24 inches, with doors and plexiglass windows. 

“You open the door to take out a book,” Zemmer said. 

She said the students’ parents and grandparents helped out by cutting the wood for the libraries from blueprints. The students painted the pieces, and the parents will put them back together. 

Zemmer said they contacted the Troy Parks Division, and city staff were excited to install the boxes in city parks. The Friends of the Troy Public Library have agreed to keep the libraries stocked with donated books. Zemmer said the students also planned to donate books.

“We’re reaching out to the community in ways we haven’t before,” Zemmer said. “It’s a great partnership.”

“I think it’s fun. We’re excited to be a part of it. The Friends support reading, books and literacy in every form,” said Troy Public Library Director Cathy Russ. “We really appreciate that they approached us. It promotes reading and the joy of books. It’s a nice way to build a community.” 

“We go into the parks and see a lot of people reading,” said Kurt Bovensiep, public works manager. “We thought, what a great opportunity for residents to recreate and exchange books with each other.” 

He said the city has not decided which parks will receive the boxes, which will be unveiled at an assembly at Troy Union next month. 

“As soon as the weather breaks, we’ll install them,” Bovensiep said.