Free library fits into box outdoors

Emma Boas has always loved to read, so her senior project was a perfect fit.

She created a free book lending library at Heritage Woods Apartments, which is part of the Columbus Housing Authority, modeling it after “The Little Free Library” concept.

“Little Free Libraries” offer a gathering place where residents share their favorite books.

The library is usually housed in an outdoor box, used to protect the books. People in the community can pick up a book, and then drop off one to share, all on the honor system.

So far, the Housing Authority library has been popular, running out of the initial stock of 200 donated books in about a month, according to Boas.

But nearby residents are getting into the spirit of the concept and donating books to replace those they borrow, she said.

Heritage Woods resident Penny Phillips had never heard of such a service, but she and her 6-year-old granddaughter, Olivia Phillips-Olds, have stopped at the library, located near the housing authority offices in the apartment complex, to check it out.

Olivia has donated books, but hasn’t borrowed any books as of yet. Phillips said she expects on Olivia’s next visit they will go over to check out the selection.

Books in the library collection range from children to teen fiction to adult novels.

“I think it’s a really good idea, because some kids don’t have books around,” Phillips said. “We thought it was really cool that we could put her books in there for another little child.”

Boas said finding books to start the library was the easy part.

“I have millions of books, and I know people who read a lot,” she said. “My grandmother set up a book drive at Walmart in North Vernon. My grandmother had sold her house, and we got a bunch of her old books,” she said.

Boas had some help from her father Wesley, a carpenter for Force Construction, in creating an outdoor shelter for the lending library.

They chose a design from an old red schoolhouse of yesteryear, painting the cabinet with a black roof and a bright red exterior.

The library cabinet is about five feet off the ground, easily accessible to those passing by.

Boas and her father spent about $230 refurbishing the cabinet that stores the books, she said.

She introduced the little library outside the housing authority offices at Heritage Woods a few days after Thanksgiving, and presented her senior project Dec. 5 at Columbus North High School.

As she heads into the final two months of her senior year, Boas hopes to continue adding books to the library.

She has thought about purchasing some books to get some newer titles in circulation.

Jill Sharp, public housing manager for the Columbus Housing Authority, said the response has been amazing from day one.

When the book supply became low after one month, Sharp looked at her own book collection and donated a bunch of her own.

“I think it’s really cool, because if I was young that would be awesome for me, because I’m a huge reader,” Boas said. “I think the impact will be pretty big for the people who really do enjoy reading.”

How to help

The Columbus Housing Authority Heritage Woods Apartments are located at 799 McClure Road.

Books may be donated by placing them inside the library near the Housing Authority offices there.

About Little Free Libraries

To learn more about “Little Free Libraries,” visit littlefreelibrary.org.