Library builder Bruce Simonds of Easthampton put a finishing touch on the floor, then closed the door and stepped back. To one side, bicyclists looked over their shoulders as they passed on the Manhan Rail Trail. To the other, bees buzzed around a small garden.
“This is very, very wonderful, Bruce,” said Gina Tirrell, administrative assistant to the CFO at The Williston Northampton School. “I think it’s the perfect location for it.”
The idea behind Little Free Libraries—housed in buildings about the size of large mailboxes—is that passers-by will be able to share and exchange their favorite books in a convenient place, taking the ones they want to enjoy and leaving a few in return. Users can look up the tiny libraries on the Little Free Library website, which includes a map and coordinates of each exchange.
Simonds, who had the idea to create a local Little Free Library after reading an article on similar efforts, approached Williston Northampton officials about placing it on school land adjacent to the rail trail.
Once he had a green light, Simonds designed the library box to look like a miniature version of the nearby Old Railroad Station. (Before her recent retirement, the station was the long-time home and studio of Williston Northampton Fine Arts teacher Marcia Reed.)
Simonds spent two months creating the building, including cutting and staining 1,200 individual shingles, building tiny windows, and even installing wooden barrels along the exterior.
With a nod to the New England weather, Simonds made sure the structure was waterproof, bee-proof, and wasp-proof. And for those who might be inclined to take the box rather than the books, he added a false floor and tamper-resistant screws.
Simonds also registered his creation with the national website and received a plaque with the identification number 1865. Below the box, he added a bag of red bookmarks with instructions, so visitors would know what to do.
So much thought had gone into the tiny library exchange that, as he installed the house, Simonds joked it might even need an “iPad app garage door opener to open this thing.”
Simonds was just finishing installing the building and was stacking books into the Easthampton Little Free Library when a reporter from the Daily Hampshire Gazette caught sight of a popular Arnold Lobel title.
“Owl at Home?” she said. “I love that book!”