Living in an area of rural Pennsylvania where book access is scarce, Leo and Kathy McCombie went to great lengths to provide their daughter Katrina with reading materials and inspire in her a love of reading. To honor her parents’ dedication, Katrina opened the Nicktown Little Free Library #143019 in April, 2022. Like Katrina’s education, designing, constructing, and maintaining this imaginative little library has been a family effort.

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Why did you start a Little Free Library?

The Nicktown Little Free Library is actually meant to be an ode to the unselfish nature of my parents. I was an extremely fortunate child growing up, as my parents always found the means to provide me with books even if it meant making sacrifices. Coming from coal and farm country in rural Pennsylvania, this was truly an unmatched privilege with the nearest book retailer being forty minutes away by car. I warmly and vividly remember our trips to the bookstore together as they encouraged me to expand my mind and to step outside of my reading comfort zone. I know that without their influence and generosity, I would not have the education that I do today. Now, as an adult, I recognize that not every child has the same level of book access as I did growing up. The Nicktown Little Free Library is my way of expressing appreciation for the literacy which my parents so generously gifted me and is also my way of sharing this gift with other members of the community.

How did you pick the design of the library? Do it have any special meaning?

After deciding to move forward with the library, I called my father (Leo) who has been a life-long carpenter, craftsman, and artist. It did not take long to convince him to assist me and within a week he had a design concept ready for review. The entire structure is a beautiful brainchild birthed from both his imagination and his talent. It was amazing to be able to witness the transformation of a few pieces of wood and tin as Leo shaped them into the Nicktown Little Free Library that stands today. The structure itself stands at close to four feet tall, has two shelves, and is capable of holding over fifty books. Leo reports that he turned to children’s fairy tales for design inspiration.

What kind of books move fastest in your library?

Between our two households, we have amassed over one hundred books which span all reading levels. To date, the books which seem to be favored are those focusing on children ages four through eight. Adult fiction titles have also proven to be very popular, and this general classification accounts for the majority of the books shared by the community thus far. In the coming months, I hope to add more large print options to the library as I believe that these books would also be well received by local residents.

What has surprised you the most since starting a Little Free Library?

The most rewarding, and admittedly surprising, aspect of starting the Nicktown Little Free Library has been the immediate support and encouragement of others. There has simply been a nonstop outpouring of kindness and optimism, both in the local community and the community of other Little Free Library stewards online. The impact of the Little Free Library is certainly not limited to providing a community with books; the kindness which has resulted from it has also changed my own perspective of humanity. It serves as the perfect showcase for altruism and unification. There really should be a Little Free Library on every corner.

Any special moments that stand out to you that you would like to share?

The first few days after opening the Nicktown Little Free Library there was very little foot traffic observed; it goes without saying that this was initially disheartening. However, later that week we received a photo from a community member showing four smiling children at the library. It was so rewarding to see this photograph and to know that our library was starting to make an impact! Since then, many other individuals have dropped by the library and have expressed their excitement about its presence in our community. It is our hope that someday the children accessing the library will want to share the gift of literacy with others as well! 

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