Columbus becomes first FL school to host Little Free Library

Community Editor
Photo by Jason DeMoe Columbus sixth-grade students fill the Little Free Library with books from home.
Photo by Jason DeMoe
Columbus sixth-grade students fill the Little Free Library with books from home.

Columbus Elementary sixth-grade teacher Deb Kipp had a vision to get more books into the hands of students. She initially was unsure how she would accomplish her goal, so she began researching ideas.

“I went online to find out what others were doing, and I noticed that there were several schools nationwide who were building Little Free Libraries and placing them on school grounds, but nothing had been done in Forest Lake,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to be the first.”

A Little Free Library is a free-standing structure meant to hold books. People stop by and take a book for free and leave a book of their own that they no longer need. Kipp began questioning her colleagues about her idea.

“What I heard was that money was tight and that if we wanted to get this effort off the ground, we would have to take it into our own hands,” she said. “So I needed to find a way to fund it and find someone to build it.”

The obvious answer in the search for a builder was fellow teacher Dan Winkelman. Winkelman, who teaches third grade and has been with the district for more than 40 years, is a carpenter by hobby and has produced several other pieces that can be seen throughout the school, including a table that is currently used in the library. Funding came from a read-a-thon that saw students collect pledges and read for two weeks. The total amount raised was $6,375, more than enough to pay for the Little Free Library. The books to initially fill it were donated by Columbus sixth-grade students.

“Everyone got excited about it, and things just all started to come together,” Kipp said. “The library turned out beautifully and the kids were very thrilled to begin to use it.”

The Little Free Library was officially unveiled March 1 at an all-school assembly and was placed in front of the school outside of Principal Neal Fox’s office.

“The next day as the kids were getting off the bus, we had to remind them that they had classes to get to as they were all hovering around the Little Free Library,” Kipp said. “We are hoping that the buzz continues and that reading becomes more popular.”

Kipp said that she especially hopes that reading’s popularity will grow into the summer months when kids are away from school.

“This Little Free Library will be available year-round, and we hope that it gets a lot of use during the summer when a lot of students experience a slight learning loss,” she said. “We do have a shelf with adult books so that mom and dad can have a reason to drive their student to the school during the summer, and we’re hoping that it’s enough to keep our Little Free Library thriving.”