Summer reading just got a whole lot easier

Jun 08, 2024 at 09:21 am by Observer-Review

Jeremy Hourihan, Esq.
BY Karen Gadiel
Fresh out of something to read? These libraries are always open, no library card needed. And now there are six more of them in Schuyler County, thanks to the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club.
“The idea came up just over a year ago,” says Nan Woodworth, president of the organization. “One of the members came up with it. Our club, district 7120, got a district grant, and the club had to commit to a certain percentage. Overall, Rotary sponsors literacy projects. This was a piece of our community effort.”  The group has also donated “hotspots” to area libraries to help boost internet access.
“Little Free Libraries” are free to users, but getting one going takes a bit of effort. They’re sturdy, colorful cabinets set on posts in areas where property owners have agreed to host them. Lumber, paint and hard work go into getting the project started. For each, a sturdy support post needs to be set. The two-shelf book boxes are hand-made, roofed and painted, each fitted with a windowed door.
They’re officially completed with a small metal plaque attached to outside, registering its charter with The website, like a downloadable app that may be used on a cell phone, allows anyone to locate a Little Free Library nearby—anywhere in the world. There are ten of these in Schuyler County. In addition to the six erected by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club, all bright yellow and blue, four others are located in various places.
These include one built and placed by Rachel Knapton in Tyrone, supported by outreach funds awarded by the Southern Tier Library System, one of eight placed as a project of the Dundee Library, and one on Burdett’s Main Street put up and maintained by the Asperschlager family and chartered in 2018.
Little Free Libraries are meant to serve those who might not have easy geographic access to a larger library. They’re a way for neighbors to share books with other neighbors. No library card is needed, no fines are levied for books kept beyond a few weeks or never returned. The shelves hold a variety of books, about two dozen or more, depending on size, mostly fiction for children and adults. Books may be borrowed, then kept or returned. Donations of books are always welcome. A library steward keeps the bookshelves in order and manages donations, sometimes helping source books when a category, like the children’s section, needs to be replenished. “They’re self-sustaining,” Woodworth explains.
For the Rotarians, the establishment of these little libraries involved a lot of behind-the-scenes work beyond the setting of posts, official registration and construction, which happened in many Saturday “building bees.” Municipalities needed to be contacted for permission, suitable places to set the libraries found. Their placement has to comply with all official regulations including making sure the libraries and their patrons don’t impede vehicular, bicycle or pedestrian traffic. The Little Libraries organization helps groups and individuals navigate regulations. In a few places, like Beaver Dams and Odessa, the best places found were in front of the Beaver Dams Church on County Route 19 and the United Methodist Church on Church Street in Odessa.
The other new locations are at the Barnum Street Playground in Burdett, Lafayette and Clute Parks in Watkins Glen, and outside Romeo Village near the Broadway Street bus stop in Montour Falls.
Jeremy Hourihan, Esq., who serves as Schuyler County’s Chief Assistant District Attorney by day, has been the steward of the Montour Falls Little Library for two weeks. “We’ve added a few new books,” he says, as he checks the library. “And more books are gone. That’s very cool.” Moving books aside as he straightens a shelf, he reveals the Rotary logo inside. He says he plans to check on the Little Library at least once a week. Noting that birds have flown over the roof, he adds he’ll clean the roof on his next visit.
Cimmy Terry, steward of the Little Library in Lafayette Park, says she’s seen evidence that people are already enjoying the books they find. She previously enjoyed visiting Little Libraries in Fayetteville, visiting children and grandchildren, and abroad on the island of Bequia, in the southern Caribbean. “Every restaurant and every bar has a bookshelf or two,” she says. “You can walk into town to do your errands, and find tons of great books to read. It’s nice to see that tradition here, too.”
For more information or to donate to this project, contact the Watkins-Montour Rotary at or talk with a Rotarian.
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