Serving the community since 1970

Little Libraries make big difference

There has been a trend in the last 10 or 15 years of Little Libraries dotting the landscape, making books available for those who may not be able to get to the library, or don't have the means to buy books of their own.

Little Libraries are abundant in Shafter, with numerous street corners housing a collection of books, inviting anyone who wants something to read to take a book and either replace it with another book, or return the book when you are finished.

The libraries in Shafter have different themes and sponsors, with a variety of decorations on them, from the spnoring Shafter Rotary Club's logo to a box with a space theme.

A big part of the success of the program is the role the Shafter Friends of the Library has played in its implementation.

The Little Free Library program started here after it appeared in Bakersfield to honor the memory of Wendy Wayne, and was based on a nationwide movement that was launched in 2011. The late Ione Lollar provided the first receptacle in Shafter at her home on Mannel Avenue about 2014. The attractive little library box, used steadily by students and others who pass her home, was made by Eagle Scout Wilson Jones, and was painted by Angie Nelson, now director of the Shafter Youth Center. Ione's legacy as a pioneer of the movement was honored at a recent meeting.

Melissa Bergen, a member of the Shafter Friends, told her woodworker grandfather about the project, and he immediately volunteered to build one for her to put up, and since then Walt Bergen has made 16 of these unique little boxes for installation around town. They hold books, both donated and purchased, for both children and adults, putting hundreds of books in ciruclation.

Internationally, the number of registered Little Free Libraries stands at about 80,000.

Although vandalism has taken its toll on a few of the boxes, dedicated people repair and restock them and the work continues, inspiring borrowers the love of reading and all the benefits it brings.

A new "curator"of the Little Libraries has taken over the repairs and maintenance of many of the libraries. Craig Haley, already active in a number of organizations, including the Shafter Kiwanis Club and the Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church, has been instrumental in the upkeep of the libraries.

Haley first started building and maintaining the libraries with Walt Bergen; now, Haley helps maintain the boxes in town. Haley is no stranger to woodworking, as he has had his own handyman business for over 20 years. Haley said that he enjoys building the boxes and also loves to help the community.

"I love working with my hands, and Melissa knew that I enjoyed it, so she suggested that I get into helping with the libraries. The rest is history."


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