Free Books, Food and Youthful Enthusiasm: What could be better?
by Melinda Long
If you’re riding on the Swamp Rabbit Trail or eating lunch on the porch at The Café at Williams Hardware, you might see something new and quite special out back. It’s a small stand with what looks like a miniature house sitting on top. If it was bigger, you’d be tempted to live there. When you get closer, you’ll see there is colorful artwork on the sides featuring rabbits at home, reading. On the front is a glass door that opens up to a world of imagination.
It’s a Little Free Library and you can thank 10-year-old Max Cook for the whole thing. He is both the originator and the steward of the library. Max will be checking frequently to make sure the library is well-stocked. And you can bet he’ll do a good job! Max is full of energy and enthusiasm.
Max loves the big library but saw a television piece about Little Free Libraries. He was intrigued. He visited one in Clemson and in Pickens but was disappointed that there were none officially in Travelers Rest. This spring, after getting some ice cream, Max went to the garden behind The Café at Williams Hardware to ring the bell. “He declared that he wanted to put a LFL there so kids and families could have fun and get books too,” says his mother, Melody Cook. “He said it was also a ‘high traffic area’ with the businesses and the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and lots of people of all ages could get there with a book or two in hand or backpack to trade out whenever they wanted.”
And so, an idea was born. The Cooks spoke to Nancy and Joyce McCarrell about putting the library in their garden area. They recommended the pocket park area right beside the bench at the trail. The McCarrell sisters “were kind enough to contact the Greenville County Recreation District to find out what was permissible there, and it was confirmed that it would clear the restrictions in that exact spot. The start of summer was set as a goal for launch.”
“We settled on a two-hour celebration with quick craft activities for the younger crowd and info sheets and ‘grownup’ bookmarks for the older crowd. The McCarrell sisters were gracious to offer the lower porch of their café for setting things up. We’re all excited to see what type of activity the LFL has, and what folks may share in the guest log that will sit on the upper shelf.” The Cooks are planning some surprises for people to enjoy as they use the library. They’ll be announced on the Facebook page – Max’s Little Free Library – Travelers Rest.
Little Free Library’s don’t just build themselves. “His grandpa designed and built the box itself, with Max helping with trim work and finishing details,” Melody says. “It is a simple, stained wood design with cedar roofing styled like you would typically see on a house.” Max’s dad is an art teacher at Welcome Elementary. He did the side panels with the reading rabbits. “There are many different shapes and sizes of the boxes themselves, which is part of the fun in finding them, but the thought was to allow this box to blend in with its natural surroundings of the pocket park along with a little punch of color and fun on the sides.”
The idea is, “Take a book. Return a book,” Max says, “I wanted to create it in Travelers Rest for people to get books and share them and have fun. And maybe someone who doesn’t own a book can now.” He would like to see lots of Captain Underpants books but there are also books of all genres and age appeal. Many were donated but the Cook family has also been looking for books at thrift stores.
The Cooks hope that “the library becomes a regular stop for folks who live in or frequent Travelers Rest or use the Swamp Rabbit trail often. After things are established, we would like to do themes and other fun things within the LFL throughout the year for the community. In the end, perhaps it will inspire others to build a Little Free Library of their own to share within their city or neighborhood!”
Maybe it will be you. It can be done. Just ask Max.
Photos by Melinda Long