CRESTON-Little Free Libraries – think of them as a kind of weatherproof roadside book exchange – are cropping up across the country. Now, thanks to a local Eagle Scout candidate, Creston has its own.
Andrew Dillard, 18, of Fleetwood, recently put the finishing touches on his capstone service project, a requirement to reach the Boy Scout’s highest rating of Eagle Scout. He learned a lot along the way, and suffered a little heartbreak and spoke with the Jefferson Post about the impression it made on him.
Seven years in the making
For Dillard, scouting has been a constant in his life since he was 11-years old, and he credits it with helping shape his character and skill set as a young man.
“When I was a kid, I knew a few kids in boy scouts and cub scouts and just thought it was a cool thing to get into,” Dillard said. “I started going to the meetings as soon as I was eligible. I joined up and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Dillard said the organization’s emphasis on earning merit badges pushed him beyond his comfort zones and helped him learn new skills, including how to effectively communicate what he’s learned.
“I’m a completely different person than I would have been, had I never joined the scouts,” Dillard said.
What about a Little Free Library?
To reach the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank, Eagle Scout, young men must earn a minimum of 21 merit badges, among other requirements, and lead a service project through to completion. In the organization’s history, only 2.25 million scouts have earned the honor.
Dillard said he’s mulled over his service project idea for nearly three years, but ultimately settled on the Little Free Library concept with the help of Ashe County Youth Services Librarian Peggy Bailey.
“She knew I was looking for a really good concept and threw out the little free library idea,” Dillard said. “I have to thank her for helping me come up with the actual idea.”
Wisconsin’s Todd Bol pioneered the little free library concept in 2009, according to LittleFreeLibrary.org, when he built a model of a one room schoolhouse, attached it to a post in his yard and filled it with free books. Initially designed as a tribute to his mother, his neighbors quickly embraced the concept and Bol ultimately built several more of the tiny weatherproof enclosures. A nonprofit to promote the idea was founded in 2012, and by June of this year some 40,000 little free libraries had sprouted across the country, according to the site.
Organization is everything
For Dillard, organizing the nuts and bolts of the entire process has been his biggest challenge – and takeaway – to date. Dillard said multiple organizations helped him along the way, including New River Building Supply in Boone, Blevins Building Supply, Parker Tie with donated supplies, along with multiple volunteers.
“For this to count as my Eagle Scout project, there are so many checkups and deadlines that you have to hit,” Dillard said. “But if I was going to go back and talk to myself at the beginning, I say to plan out the process even more. There’s a leadership component and you’re working with other scouts and their families and other volunteers and keeping all that straight is the biggest challenge. Who is doing what and when and everything has to be accounted for. So that was a huge eye-opener for me.”
Patience is key
Dillard said he also learned a little about heartbreak and patience along the way when some of the project’s tools and materials were stolen – just as Dillard and company were preparing to wrap the Little Free Library up.
“This mishap, my dad and I had left our materials and tools on site to go back to Lowes in town to get some last minute supplies,” Dillard said. “We’d seen not a single car pass us all day long, so for the hour-and-a-half that we were gone we thought we just tuck this stuff behind the school and we’d be OK. We’ll, when we got back it was gone.”
The theft didn’t kill the project, but Dillard said it taught him to always worry about the details and deadlines, because something can always throw a wrench in the works.
“Ok, take a deep breath and figure out what you’re going to do next, and then go do that,” Dillard said. “If you’ve planned things out correctly, you’ll be Ok.”
Dillard said the lessons he learned building his Little Free Library are likely ones he’ll never forget.
“At the end of the day it was pretty cool to get this done,” Dillard said. “And we can be proud of what we did.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.