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New Free Little Libraries in Collinsville

Free Little Libraries arrived in Collinsville this summer. This is a community book exchange program that provides a place for people to take a book someone else has left or leave a book for the next person.

Deborah Redditt, a board member of the Collinsville Public Library, wanted to bring Free Little Libraries to Collinsville for years.  Redditt, along with Collinsville Public Library Director Jennifer Wilkins, had considered different options, but it never seemed to work out.

When Wilkins mentioned the project to me, I decided building a Free Little Library was something I could tackle during my Living Democracy summer in Collinsville. Wilkins said, “We’ve been wanting to do this for a while now. I can't wait to see how this turns out!”

Once I started researching how to go about building a structure like that, I realized I was in over my head. I asked Mark Shatzel, another Library board member, to assist me in the construction process, and he agreed to help.

Luckily, Shatzel had all kinds of saws and other power tools needed to complete the project.  He suggested finding a space indoors to build the Little Libraries. Shatzel, also a member of the Collinsville Rescue Squad, asked their chief if we could use the Rescue Squad building for our project, and he said yes. 

One goal I had when building the Free Little Libraries was to purchase all the supplies locally if at all possible. Graves Hardware in downtown Collinsville had literally everything we needed from nails and plywood to paint, hinges and plexiglass. It was also conveniently located within walking distance to the Rescue Squad building. 

Over the course of two weeks, Shatzel and I finally managed to finish two large wooden structures that looked like oversized bird houses. We attached the structures to posts set with concrete into metal wash tubs that doubled as flower beds.

Shatzel was impressed with the work we did, considering neither of us were carpenters and the instructions we followed were from the internet. He measured the two buildings to compare them and see how close they were in size. He then happily said, “Wow! They are only an eighth of an inch different in size! That's pretty good for two people who didn't know what they were doing.”  

Alyssa Sutton, a local artist from Albertville, came to help me paint the boxes with a Dr. Seuss theme. We chose bright colors and a quote that would draw the attention of the community. She painted Truffula Trees on the sides, replicating the fluffy colorful trees from the Lorax movie and included this quote on the back: “You can find magic wherever you look, sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” 

Wilkins suggested placing the Free Little Libraries in neighborhoods that people could walk to without having to cross the highway. One was placed in front of L&B Restaurant on Gregory Avenue. The other is at Mountain Oak Apartments on Mountain Valley Avenue.

When Shatzel and I were at Mountain Valley Apartments unloading the Free Little Library, six excited kids came up and asked what the big box was for. We told them about the book exchange process, and they seemed thrilled.

One of the girls recognized The Dr. Seuss theme immediately, and I promised we would put Dr. Seuss books, as well as other children’s books, in the box.

All of the books in the Free Little Libraries were donated to the Collinsville Public Library by community members. Wilkins and Redditt are going to make sure the shelves stay stocked with books for the community to enjoy. 

To learn more about Free Little Libraries, visit