Book exchange checked out

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZSt. Francis Xavier 7th grade Cadette Girl Scout Troop 1231 finished building two Little Free Libraries, which will be placed within Jefferson Parish in front of someone's home. Megan Brannon paints the door of a library Saturday  while troop members give a coat to the rest of the structure. The troop's leader Cherie Rose, goes over some notes in the background.  A contest will be held to determine the steward of the library given to them. Little Free Library is a nonprofit community movement in the United States, which features small house-like containers with free books to be taken and exchanged.
Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZSt. Francis Xavier 7th grade Cadette Girl Scout Troop 1231 finished building two Little Free Libraries, which will be placed within Jefferson Parish in front of someone's home. Megan Brannon paints the door of a library Saturday while troop members give a coat to the rest of the structure. The troop's leader Cherie Rose, goes over some notes in the background. A contest will be held to determine the steward of the library given to them. Little Free Library is a nonprofit community movement in the United States, which features small house-like containers with free books to be taken and exchanged.

Girl Scouts build Little Free Libraries for community project

METAIRIE — Libraries are often grand and impressive structures, built with tax dollars or money given by wealthy donors, but two very small libraries will soon be opening in Jefferson Parish, thanks to the hard work of eight Girl Scouts.

St. Francis Xavier’s Girl Scout Troop 1231 was looking for a project to earn its Silver Award, a high honor in scouting that requires completing a community service project that takes at least 50 hours.

The seventh-graders were inspired by the Little Free Library movement, a national effort to build and stock tiny libraries — more like book exchanges — that are located at the home of someone who volunteers to act as the library’s steward.

The idea behind the Little Free Library is simple: People can take a book or leave a book — or both — with no strings attached. For the girls, who have been together since kindergarten, the project seemed like an ideal way to give back to their community.

The troop turned to Paulette Mire, the grandmother of Girl Scout Caroline Troendle, to help them design and building their miniature libraries. “She wanted to design her kitchen cabinets, so she took a carpentry class,’’ Caroline explained.

The girls trekked to Mire’s house in New Iberia to sand, prime and assemble the boxes.

“We sealed the cracks and put something on the roof so if it rains the water won’t seep in,’’ Caroline said.

The group debated various color schemes for the little houses but ended up going with Girl Scout colors — green and tan — which they applied on Saturday.

Now, the next big decision is who will act as the stewards of their libraries. The troop is holding a contest, asking prospective stewards to write a letter explaining why they should be chosen.

The troop will help keep the libraries stocked with books for two years, troop member Sarah Rose said. “We should check on it at least once a week,’’ she said. After the two years are up, the library steward will take over complete responsibility for maintaining the free library.

The girls hope that the project will make books more readily available to elderly people who might not be able to go to a regular library and also encourage children to read. The libraries hold about 20 books and will include everything from children’s books to teen and adult titles.

Building the libraries was fun, Caroline and Sarah agreed. “I think just knowing that you’re actually building something that will give back to the community and you get to do it with your friends is what made it fun,’’ Sarah said.