Free Library

Standing next to the book box at the Presbyterian Church are, left to right, Joyce Dietrich, Patty Zion, Rev. Nathan Royster and Rev. Jim Dietrich.

BROOKVILLE — There is a new feature on Main Street that encourages all members of the community to pick up a good book. The Little Free Library was brought to Brookville through the combined efforts of Joyce Dietrich, Jim Dietrich and Patty Zion, of the Rebecca M. Arthur’s Library, along with their teen intern, Brittany Deemer, and the participants of the Teen Reading Lounge.

The Teen Reading Lounge is a program of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. The Teen Reading Lounge is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Joyce Dietrich, a former sixth grade teacher who coordinates the teen reading programs at the library, says the after school program runs every Tuesday. Sometimes they read books aloud at their meetings, or sometimes they take them home to read and then meet to discuss them together. Joyce plans activities, crafts and snacks for the teens. Last summer, as part of their “Build a Better World” theme, Joyce and her readers planned a project to make a “free library” which would be stationed somewhere in town and offer books that all members of the community can use.

Thanks to Pastor Nathan Royster, the Little Free Library found a home in front of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street. He says the library is one way to give to the community and for the members of the community to give to each other. “I liken it to the penny dish, take one or leave one,” he said.

The program had Jim Dietrich to thank for the craftsmanship of the Little Free Library. “I cut out the parts, then the kids primed the wood, and I assembled it,” he explained. “I actually had it done within about three weeks.” To help with installation, the group recruited Ray Puller and he had it up by October. Both Joyce and Jim Dietrich noted that they have already seen new books going in and out of the library.

Funding for the Little Free Library was provided by the Teen Reading Lounge grant which gave $1,400 to the library in order to pay for the program’s staffing and materials, as well as the community outreach projects. Along with the Little Free Library, the participants of the program planted a vegetable garden behind the library, read to children at the Crayon Castle, and brought in a guest speaker, Deputy Sheriff Kyle Pisarcik, who spoke to the group about the process of getting a new K-9 for the county. The Teen Reading Lounge then donated the allocated money for the guest speaker to help pay for K-9 Iron.

“They were so excited,” Zion recalled. “They asked so many questions. They will be excited to see the dog.”

Joyce says the grant money for the Teen Reading Lounge has run out, but she continues to run the teen reading program for students starting at sixth grade and older to come to the library and have fun reading and talking together.

The former teacher says she enjoys having the opportunity to encourage young readers. Joyce recalled that she used to enjoy combining reading with history and find ways to plan activities around food, crafts and culture that illuminated aspects of the text for her students. Though as time went on, Joyce found there was less and less opportunity in the curriculum for extra activities, which is why she appreciates the time and resources she has in the library to bring the books to life with her readers. “It’s like doing what I did at school,” she explained, “but not having to give the kids a test.”

Not only does the library support the teen reading program, but now that the grant money for projects and snacks was depleted, several parents have donated to keep the reading group well fed. Another donation came from Jacob d’Argy, owner of the McKinney-d’Argy Funeral Home and the G.B Carrier House Inn.

Joyce hopes the Little Free Library will extend her goals for the teen reading program beyond the walls of the library. “I’m always an advocate of reading books,” she said. “My hopes for it is that it’s well-used.”

Zion appreciates the Little Free Library’s location, saying “I really love that it stands right out there at the street where people stop at that stoplight,” she noted. “I think it speaks to Brookville being welcoming and that this is a project that is for the entire community.”

The project’s builder, Jim, added that he likes the fact that the Little Free Library is always full of surprises. “I think it makes people curious and curiosity really leads you to want to find out,” he said. “And reading is a great way to find out.”

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