Library Build Case Study: Eagle Scout Project

By Megan Hanson

If you’re a Boy Scout or Girl Scout looking to build a Little Free Library (perhaps for your Gold Award or Eagle Scout Project?), then this post is for you! In 2014, Patrick Hester, a Boy Scout in northern Indianapolis, decided to build and install four Little Free Libraries for his Eagle Scout project.

We spoke with his father and troop leader, Jim Hester, about the exact strategies that Patrick used to raise funds, organize and hold a Little Library build day, find locations and get permission to install each Little Library around Indianapolis.

Raising Funds to Buy A Library Building Kit

Patrick decided to buy the Neighborhood Building Party Kit from Little Free Library, which is about $950 for four Library kits, plus S&H which is about $250 for a total of around $1,200. (Update: the Neighborhood Building Party Kit has been discontinued, but a variety of other Library Kits are available in Little Free Library’s online store.)

To raise enough money to purchase the kit, Patrick used two main strategies:

First, he solicited friends, family and some local businesses. He created a one-page PowerPoint slide that he used to talk about the project.

Second, Patrick’s neighborhood has an outdoor amphitheater during the summer months where Scouts and other nonprofit youth organizations are allowed earn tips by carrying picnic items and helping amphitheater patrons get to their seats. They work about 2 hours per shift and can earn tips anywhere from $20 to $80 per evening.

Patrick worked about 15 different shifts, talking with his guests about his project while they walked from their cars to the lawn. He earned over $800 doing that, and all of that money went to his project!

Figuring Out Where to Place Each Library

In addition to raising funds to purchase a Neighborhood Building Party Kit, Patrick needed to find good locations to put up each of his four Little Libraries after they were built. Here is how he went about it, according to Jim.

“Patrick thought that parks would be a great location where people might want something to read, so he solicited our local Parks Department. He also placed one at resting spot on a trail that thousands of walkers, runners and bikers use.

“During a conversation about supporting the parks, a gentlemen mentioned he was thinking of adding a Library at a gathering spot for our Downtown Association. Patrick agreed to make it part of his project.

“Finally, our family has a close association with a dog rescue organization. The rescue is housed near a bark park, so Patrick thought it would be nice to have one there for people letting their dogs get some exercise.”

In Patrick’s case, all of the locations where he wanted to install his Libraries were managed either by the local Parks Department, the Downtown Association or the local dog rescue organization. Patrick needed to get permission from those specific groups because they owned the land where he wanted to put his Libraries.

Note: If you want to put a Library on public land managed by the city government, you will probably have lots of expensive hoops to jump through, especially if you live in a bigger city. We recommend avoiding this problem by placing Little Libraries on private property owned by individuals or private organizations. Parks Departments tend to be friendly to the idea, too!

One other key step is to call your digger’s hotline. If you’ve never done this before, just Google “digger’s hotline {insert your town name}” and you will find a phone number easily. You want a local utilities company to come and check out the spot where you want to install your Library. (This is usually a free service.) Why? To be sure that there aren’t any gas, sewage or other pipes beneath the ground where you want to dig. Nobody wants to deal with a sewage leak, trust us!

 Building Four Little Free Libraries

Next up, the fun part! Organizing a build day and assembling four Little Free Library Kits.

“The Kit is great for a build day for your Scout troop and friends as each of the four Libraries goes together the exact same way, so leading the project is easy,” reported Jim.

“We simply set up four tables, one per Library, and had three or four boys at each table. You just need glue, screwdrivers and hammers to assemble each one. I think we spent about three or four hours putting the Libraries together.”

Jim also pointed out that you will want to consider how you are going to install each of your Little Libraries. We have recommended installation instructions which show you how to use a 4×4″ wooden post as the base and then create a wooden platform for the top of the post, which is where you attach the Library. The wooden post, lumber and hardware you will need to follow these instructions usually costs around $30.

Advice for Other Scouts

We asked Jim if he had any advice for Scouts looking to build one or more Little Libraries, and here is what he shared:

“To get books, ask your family, friends, neighbors and members of your troop. You will be amazed at how many gently-used books you get. If you have specific requests, stop by Half Price Books (or other local book stores) and ask for donations. Also, the fundraising part takes time…but if you have a plan and think creatively, you can get there!

“Finally make sure you have a steward to turn your Library over to. Supply the steward with a tote bag of books to supply the Library. Our family decided to be the stewards of one that Patrick built. Another is being managed by our troop, and the last two are being managed by the Downtown Association and Bark Park.  Don’t try to be the steward for all four by yourself!”

Click here for free Little Free Library building plans
Click here to learn more about starting your own Little Free Library
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