Savoy turns ash trees destroyed by insect into little free libraries

Savoy turns ash trees destroyed by insect into little free libraries

SAVOY — Little free libraries are springing up around Savoy from the trunks of trees that used to shade village boulevards.

Out of a combination of Mayor Joan Dykstra's idea to promote literacy and community and the public works department's expertise at craftsmanship with the remnants of ailing ash trees have come six of what Dykstra calls the LFLs.

Working under the premise of "take a book, return a book, share a book," the libraries will be stocked with gently-used quality books for adults and children to borrow beginning Saturday. The opening of the LFLs is the reason for a ribbon-cutting celebration in Colbert Park from noon to 1 p.m. that will feature book giveaways, family-friendly activities and refreshments. The Cat in the Hat is expected to make an appearance.

"This won't be a one-time getting together for the little free libraries. I envision lots of interactions, especially with the kids of Savoy where they go to the different libraries," Dykstra said. "There are special bookmarks for each of the libraries and they will collect them all. Then they can come to the village municipal center for a prize like a free book."

The little free libraries will be at:

— The Savoy Municipal Center, 611 N. Dunlap Ave.

— The Savoy Recreation Center, 402 Graham Drive

— Colbert Park, 203 E. Church St.

— Jones Park, 310 W. Church St.

— Smith Prairie Fields Park by Carrie Busey School in the 300 block of Prairie Rose Lane.

— Burwash Park, 350 Burwash Ave.

While the idea came from Dykstra, a former teacher passionate about literacy, it was the talented public works employees who crafted the six fairly unique structures.

Dysktra said she asked Jesse Stephens, operations superintendent, if his folks had to build one in the winter when they weren't plowing or doing other pressing work.

"At the beginning of spring, Jesse calls me back to public works, opens the door and here are six of them," said the elated Dykstra. "Four were big with two shelves, the top for adults, the bottom for kids.

"It's surprising how many books you can get in them."

Two of the structures are built on to the ends of benches made from the leftovers of village ash trees that had to be cut down due to the invasion of emerald ash borers.

"We try to use the ash wood to do a multitude of things," Stephens said. "We make park benches and (refurbish) picnic tables in the parks. The wood tends to rot out and people carve on them. So instead of going to Lowe's or Menards, we try to use the wood from the trees that have been taken down."

Stephens credited village arborist Phil Lake and three other of his employees in the parks department with crafting the LFLs.

Dykstra said she has been assisted by Christine Cahill, the librarian at Carrie Busey school, and Janet Cler, the head librarian at the Tolono Library.

"They are both integral in giving advice and in giving us books," Dykstra said. "Each location will have a librarian. We already have volunteers. Each librarian will check to make sure there's no vandalism, that books are traded out, keeps track to let us know if there are any problems, and makes sure there are quality books for both children and adults."

People wanting to donate books are asked to bring them to the Municipal Center.

Prairie Fields resident Sally Shores, also a retired teacher, said she would relish seeing someone read the good books that she has finished.

A frequent user of the Rec Center, Shores called the LFLs a great idea.

"When the grandchildren come to visit, we can read children's books," she said.

If it rains Saturday, the LFL dedication in Colbert Park will take place June 1.

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