The Center for Community Health Creates a Little Free Library in NOTA

The University of Rochester’s Center for Community Health (CCH) recently built and installed a Little Free Library outside their office building in the Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA).

Established by the Medical Center in 2006, the CCH partners with the community to promote health equity and improve community health, especially among disadvantaged populations. In 2008, the CCH moved to its present location at 46 Prince Street to better serve the community. Since this building is home to other agencies besides the CCH, it is a hub of community activity.

With the creation of the Center’s Little Free Library, staff are celebrating a new contribution they can make to community health and wellbeing. They can share their library as a community resource in NOTA. The Center’s Little Free Library looks like a small two-story house. It operates on the “take a book, return a book” principle common to these libraries.

The project started as a great idea, but it took team effort to bring it to fruition! The library was made possible by CCH staff—Deb Nelson, Cathy Concannon, Jenifer Dewsnap, and Mary Scahill (pictured from left to right in the photo above); and other supporters—Dave Matthews (Cathy’s husband), Ed Nelson (Deb’s husband), Irondequoit Public Library, CCH Administration, and the University of Rochester.

Two CCH staff, Deb Nelson and Cathy Concannon, had the inspiration that the Center could create a free library of reading materials and make it available to their staff, clients, patients, and agency partners, as well as other tenants in the building, and the broader NOTA community. The CCH is located across from the Rochester City School District’s School of the Arts, and sits next door to the American Red Cross and the Memorial Art Gallery. It is also within close proximity to residential properties, the Auditorium Theater, galleries, stores, restaurants, and places of worship. Deb and Cathy saw the potential for the Center’s Little Free Library to promote community, literacy, and sustainability among the many people who live, work, worship, learn, play and/or receive community services in NOTA.

As background, Deb researched the Little Free Library concept on-line, and spoke with Amy Kadrie of University Facilities and Services about how three other such projects had been carried out at the University, i.e., two Little Free Libraries in graduate student housing, and one at The Children’s School @ URMC. Deb also brought to this project a year’s experience of having created and maintained her own Little Free Library outside her home in Pittsford.

LFL6Then, the project got underway, evolving in several phases. Since sustainability was one of the goals of this project, most of the materials utilized were recycled and donated. Initially, the library was built for indoor use. Over the summer, Dave Matthews constructed and weatherproofed the library using recycled materials, some of which were donated by the University’s MC Facilities Operations. It was initially housed in the CCH lunchroom on the first floor of the building and filled with books donated by staff.

But, for full community access, the library needed to be moved outside of the building. So, during the second phase, CCH staff repainted it with exterior paint, and Ed Nelson built the support base to attach the library to a recycled post from MC Facilities Operations.

The third phase was installing the library in front of the north entrance to the building early in October. To complete the project, signage was mounted on the library in December. One plaque identified the library’s registration and charter number from the non-profit Little Free Library organization that tracks these projects worldwide. A second sign announced that the library was all about “Celebrating Neighbors” and explained how it operates. Registration and signage costs were covered by the CCH.

Since its installation, the library has been sparking excitement in the neighborhood. It immediately caught the attention of another tenant in the building. Dr. Lois Van Tol, a Family Medicine physician on the second floor (Touchstone Family Medicine), wrote to the CCH: “Did you folks put up the fabulous Little Free Library in front of the building? It’s just beautiful!” Also, a community partner who came to the Center for a meeting a few days after it was installed called the library “a wonderful idea!”

CCH - North Facade 2Deb says that the library is being well-used. She observed, “Books started being taken from our library right from the get go. In particular, children’s books seem to be in great demand.” To keep up with this demand, Center staff approached the Irondequoit Public Library for donations of books, especially children’s books. In response, the library made a very generous donation of ten boxes of used books, which Deb says “will keep us stocked over the coming months, so we can replace books that disappear and vary our collection to keep it fresh.”

Next time you’re in NOTA, the Center for Community Health invites you to stop by and visit their Little Free Library.

Written by Marcia Middleton, Health Educator, URMC’s Center for Community Health