A Little Free Library is coming to a Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools elementary school near you.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that works to spread a love of reading and spark creativity by fostering book exchanges.

Tricia Twigg, the school district's community relations and outreach coordinator, said the proposed Little Free Library book exchanges within the school system started with a mini-grant application to the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation last year from Jessica Long at Chapelfield Elementary School.

The foundation provided funds for the books and, originally, a volunteer was going to build the little library for them.

"Because the construction did not occur, Jessica reached out to us and I asked the architecture and Fab Lab teachers, Jason McGee and Mike Kunselman (respectively) if they could help," she said. "Their answer to me was, 'Why just one? We can do this for all elementary schools.' "

The architecture students all worked on designs, with the choices narrowed down to three options.

Twigg said the final three designs were sent out across the district for voting and the winning design came from senior Emma Aicher.

Treehouse design

Wherever these libraries are, Aicher said in a YouTube video, it brings people together.

"Neighbors who have never met each other have become friends because of these Little Free Libraries in their neighborhood," she said. "Having one at each elementary school is a good idea, because it will create more interaction between kids and also give them a fun way to think about reading books."

If she were an elementary student, Aicher said, she would be excited to check out the Little Free Library at her school, because she would be surprised to see what books were inside.

"Like some of you when you were younger, I loved to explore and create and use my imagination," Aicher said. "When we were given the opportunity to design our own Little Free Libraries, I was excited I'd be working with my imagination again."

She said while growing up she explored a lot by playing in the backyard with her brother, and they would play in a tree and act like it had a treehouse.

"This gave me the idea of designing and creating a little library that looks like a treehouse," she said.

Her model is close to 5 feet tall with a window in the front and a removable tray for flowers, herbs or other plants.

"I like the overall design because it looks intricate, but it's easily produced, and it can be personalized," Aicher said. "For now, I created this design to be shades of blue, but teachers, students or anyone who wants to can paint this the way they like it to be."

To be able to use her imagination to create something as meaningful as a Little Free Library has been a privilege, she said.

Construction plans

Twigg said the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation would fund materials if the Fab Lab needs it.

She has been acting as an overall project coordinator to facilitate the communication among all involved parties.

McGee said he and Kunselman are working out the final details to make the libraries buildable.

He estimates that each library will cost about $100, which is under the budget the foundation set.

"Right now, myself and Mike Kunselman (the Fab Lab instructor) are working out the final details to make this build-able," McGee said.

He said the goal is to get the libraries fabricated and installed as soon as possible.

"Once Jason and I iron out some of the oddities in the design, I will pass it on to my Principles of Engineering class," Kunselman said. "They will develop a plan to utilize our materials efficiently. The plan is for them to use the CNC router to cut the parts digitally."

Judy Hengstebeck, the school district's communications coordinator, said district leaders love this project because it crosses over between so many great programs and provides rich experiences for the students.

"Of course, we plan on having ribbon-cuttings once the Little Free Libraries are installed and ready to open," she said.

Little Free Library chapters may be registered online at www.littlefreelibrary.org.

As of this year, there are more than 75,000 registered Library Free Library book-sharing boxes in 88 countries worldwide, according to www.littlefreelibrary.org.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla