Local News

Father, daughter build ‘Little Free Library’

By From page A1 | February 18, 2014


Davis Parent Nursery School student Iris Clay has an armload of books that she borrowed from the Little Free Library at DPNS' Danbury Street site in South Davis. The library is the brainchild of Mariah Hess, assistant director of the school's three-day program. It's housed in a nearly full-sized British phone booth built by Hess' father, Ivan Vonk. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

An old-fashioned and nearly full-sized British telephone booth full of books might seem out of place in most playgrounds. But the kids who attend Davis Parent Nursery School wouldn’t think so, at least not since last month, when Davis’ most recent “Little Free Library” was donated to the school’s Danbury Street site in South Davis.

Mariah Hess, assistant director of the three-day program at DPNS, first considered building her students a Little Free Library during walks with her 3½-year-old daughter.

“There’s one in South Davis that Sydney and I always go to,” she said. “We always go to the park, stop by the Little Free Library, grab a book to read, and next time we come we’ll put a new book in there.

“That was where I got the idea that it would be nice to have one at our school.”

The Little Free Library movement — started by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., in 2009 — is a nonprofit worldwide network of volunteer-built kiosks where people are free to leave or take any book they choose. Now there are more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries providing free access to books and promoting literacy.

Hess brought up the idea of building such a library to her father, Ivan Vonk, who began construction last fall. But the two soon realized a traditional Little Library, usually a 2-by-2-foot cubby, might not suit their needs.

“The size of it just didn’t seem right,” Vonk said. “When you’re talking about all the parents and little kids that come through here … you really get that bigger would be better.

“Then we decided what kind of style would be good for the nursery, and for Davis itself, and Mariah made the comment that a British phone booth would really fit in.”

Hess, citing the city’s distinctive double-decker buses and British-style red phone booths, said: “With Davis, I thought that would be perfect.”

For three months, Vonk spent the weekends in his garage building the phone booth-shaped library out of wood and fiberglass.

“I have all my receipts in a coffee can,” he said with a laugh. He and his daughter fully financed the new addition to the school.

On Jan. 25, the officially registered Little Free Library was added to the nursery school’s playground.

“The first day was pretty amazing,” Hess said about her students’ initial reaction to the bright red callbox stacked with books. “The kids were just kind of in awe, and they wanted to see what was in it.”

While the town’s newest Little Free Library has been open for less than a month, both Hess and her father are delighted at the impact their gift is already having on the youngsters who attend Davis Parent Nursery School.

“They love it,” Hess said happily. “After school there’s a line to get books.”

— To learn more about the Little Free Library movement, visit http://littlefreelibrary.org

Evan Boylan

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