Fifth graders at Crest Hill Elementary in Casper made two Little Free Libraries that they auctioned and raffled to support their Parent-Teacher Organization’s fundraising efforts. As part of the project, they investigated libraries and their impact on their communities. Each class had to work as a team to design and complete their libraries, through the school library’s makerspace.
“We also registered the libraries with the Little Free Library organization,” said Crest Hill’s librarian, Devin Hodgins. “So they appear online on the LFL’s worldwide map. Incidentally, the shells students used for the libraries were a couple of old newspaper dispensers that the Casper Star-Tribune had retired and consigned to the junk heap.They gave them to us, just asking for pictures when they were completed.”
The school was awarded a Carol McMurry Library Endowment grant through the Wyoming Community Foundation for the project. Grant dollars purchased tools, paint, and supplies, as well as a handful of computers for students to use in the library for research. Devin was also able to round up support from a few local businesses. Jereco Cleaning Systems primed and coated the newspaper racks so they’d be ready for the students to paint. Much of that paint was donated by Sherwin-Williams. The Glass Warehouse also donated some shop supplies.
Between the raffle and the auction, the students raised more than $400 for the school’s PTO, which will then use those funds to help support the school library.
Fifth graders designed one library to look like a robot. The other they designed as a dragon, their school’s mascot. After one student’s parent won the silent auction on the dragon library, the raffle drawing began. “Lo and behold!” Devin said. “The same person who put in the highest bid for the dragon also won the raffle for the robot. What’s even more spectacular about that is they live relatively close to the school, so there’s a good chance many of our students will have the opportunity to visit.”
The winning family’s father works at a local hotel, so he’s going to see if they can place one there. “What a great location for a Little Free Library, welcoming visitors to our community!” Devin said.
The class project became the catalyst for transforming the event into an entire Spring Book Festival that drew about 200 people. To accompany the raffle and auction, the PTO held a free spaghetti dinner, doing all the cooking with some donated support from Olive Garden on the breadsticks.
For the event, reading centers were scattered throughout the school commons. The centers were based on a few literary genres: mystery, fantasy, realistic fiction, traditional literature (folklore), and poetry. One station invited folks to examine the WE READ program through the Casper Star-Tribune’s MY TRIB publication. The last station allowed people to visit the Little Free Library website and to investigate the organization for themselves.
Initial feedback from participants was positive. “Students, families, teachers, and staff seemed rather impressed by the whole event and thought it was an enjoyable evening all around,” Devin said. “We now have quite a strong foundation on which to build.”
The entire project stemmed from Devin’s attendance at last year’s Wyoming Library Leadership Institute. “I wanted to help strengthen a sense of togetherness among the school, parents, and stakeholders and to expand awareness of the impact of libraries throughout the school and even broader community. I’d like to think that we took some respectable strides toward that end.”