Little Free Libraries for Elementary Schools

(For background on this project read: Making a Difference.)

This post picks up where an email thread end …

We can simplify this project if we leverage an existing program. The one recurring group build program we have is Jim Strawn’s Toy Building program. Before the shop closed Jim had extended it to beyond toys to include a wonderful “low workbench” (see mine below). He’s expressed a willingness to let us leverage his process into this project. For Little Free Libraries we build for schools, the costs will be covered. However, we’ll open the program up to those who want to build one for themselves at a small cost. This notion will be at the core of tomorrow’s call.

To pull off this project will require help from you all. After choosing a really robust design we’ll need to document the design, develop a cut plan and prepare stock for kits. Then of course there’s the actual building, finishing and installing the Little Free Libraries. We have partners who will get permissions, do the funding, and stock the books. Oh, and if you enjoy the process then two things can happen. Jim can always use assistants to help. Also, if this little engine fires well then we could move on the lap desks, little tables or other things to help kids cope with learning at home during the pandemic.

Thank you for taking the time today to meet and kick-off this project.

Please look at the list below and let me know what your interests are.

Our near term goals are limited:
We will build two libraries for elementary schools in the Diamond Neighborhood.
If we successfully do this and if we have fun doing it then we can expand on the basic idea.
To get started we will leverage the build process that Jim has been running for two years.

However, to pull that off we’ll need do certain things around the actual building:

  1. Little Free Library program: we need to understand what we can and can’t do
  2. Select a Design: we need to work with Jim to select a hardy preexisting design.
  3. Get Stock & Build Kits: we need to take the design, break it down, source wood and build kits
  4. Building Libraries: everybody who would like to can participate in the build sessions
  5. Finishing the LFLs: we’ll need the unfinished construction to be painted etc.
  6. Installing: we’ll need to install the LFL in it’s final location at each school

Before Jim can schedule the build sessions we’ll need to complete #2 and #3 above.

Consequently, if you’re interested in doing those then please let me know now.
With enough interest from this group I think we can easily achieve our goal.
Thanks for being there today, it was fun.

After our meeting today I spoke with Jim about our call.
(For the record, Jim apologizes for having missed it.)

I’ve since asked Jim if he can build a prototype within two weeks.
If he agrees then we can meet again on this in mid-February.
Jim will show off his library and we could start next steps:

  • Improve and document Jim’s initial design
  • Source the wood needed to build two (or more) LFL
  • Make kits to build the libraries for the schools

Tentatively Jim is planning our build session for March 9.

If this turns into a program then we will hold more sessions.
While this will be a weekday build, builds done independent of Jim
will be planned for non-workday windows so that more people can join.

I am interested in this arena of projects. Looking at your list, I am probably “good” in #2-#5.

I have numerous projects for my community schools, my wife and my oldest daughter are both teachers, my second daughter recently left her position as an executive secretary for a school administrator. I loan my books to my neighbors.

This is a lap desk, simple piece of 1/4" plywood with a 1"x1" base, various sizes. They hold computers, meals, books, crossword puzzles, work as foundations for Lego and Tinkertoy buildings, etc. Naval Medical Center San Diego and Veterans Affairs Medical Center San Diego (“La Jolla”) have received quite a few.

This is a calendar that sits in numerous offices around Ramona and San Marcos.

This is a book rack that sits in several Ramona school classrooms and libraries and at least one other area school. In my wife’s school the librarian uses it (pre-shutdown) to highlight the daily reading selections.

This easel is another school project. Using “newsprint” the teacher can write the material once and keep it flowing, simply roll it up to continue. Then recall it the next time it is needed.

This also got provided to local, young, “artists in training.”

A modification of the school easel is the “child easel.” Which as not only the newsprint side but four activity sides.

Fairly good at design work and angles. Passable at VCarve and using the latest version.

Really like the little workbench project. I am probably going to duplicate it. Other projects of mine on


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It’s wonderful what you’ve done and I’ve added you to our distribution list.
Just to set expectations, our first effort is a test of the community build concept.
We will be building two Little Free Libraries for two schools in the Diamond District.

Hopefully all goes well, we formalize the program and move onto other projects.

Thanks for stepping up!

I’d like to help where needed. Perhaps documenting the design, if plans are not already available?

For those who haven’t seen the variety of designs out there, here is a search result using Google Images.

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A quick update on this project …

  • Jim has built one LFL and has a second LFL in kit form
  • We’ll meet to review his LFL and iterate for buildability
  • A design will need to be created to guide future builds

I believe that another two LFL will be requested soon.

More news on next steps coming soon.

We’re having a project review meeting with Jim’s design and builds.
If interested then you can either join us in the Shop or on Zoom.
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 2, at noon:

You can sign-up to get the Zoom link on PunchPass:

I hope to post a picture of Jim’s completed LFL sometime soon.

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Only three seats left for the Community Build session.
Jim will be hosting the build of a Little Free Library.
This will help us move forward with lessons learned.

We’ll be meeting at the Shop on April 6 at 9:00 am.

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