Community: Avid readers take on big job of building little libraries

Teens from Burbank and surrounding communities have come together this summer to build three Little Free Libraries in a project run by the Burbank Public Library. Once completed, each will be placed in locations throughout the city and filled with books to be shared by those passing by them.

The wooden boxes will be installed by city employees at three locations — the Downtown MetroLink Station, the rose garden median at Scott Road and Glenoaks Boulevard and the Chandler Bikeway. The teens will choose the books to be placed in each and it is hoped that people taking a free book will leave one off in its place.

The project is run by library employees Melissa Elliott, senior librarian in charge of teen services, and Anarda Williams, teen librarian at the Buena Vista branch. Williams found out about the Little Free Libraries campaign five years ago and she had dreamed of doing the project in Burbank, she said.

“It seemed like a huge undertaking but Melissa said ‘let’s do it,’” Williams said.

Library Director Elizabeth Goldman liked the idea and Williams’ dream came true.

When I stopped by Northwest Library last Thursday, about 20 youngsters were busy painting the wooden frames outside on picnic tables. The week before they had sanded and put primer coats on each frame, said Aidan Allen, 15, a Burbank resident and ninth-grader at California Virtual Academy.

Caleb Vaughan, 16, a 10th-grader who is home schooled and lives in Sherman Oaks, said he mostly provides the entertainment.

Caleb has been coming to the Burbank Library for many years, he said, and his mom saw the Little Free Libraries advertised on the website and suggested he join the project. His mom hopes this activity will inspire him to do a similar project for his Boy Scout Eagle Project.

He sings Bee Gees tunes and fills in wherever he’s needed, and the paint stains on his pants proved it.

One little library will be at the Chandler Bikeway at Buena Vista Street because it’s a major entry point, Elliott said. The second little library will be at the Downtown MetroLink station on Front Street, which will get a lot of commuter traffic. The third one at Scott and Glenoaks has double bus stops that should attract riders who love to read.

“We’ve been talking about the demographics of the people who ride and live in the neighborhood so we can figure out what kinds of books to put in them once they are done,” she said.

The response from teens has been great, she added. Instead of the expected 15 participants, the workshops have drawn 30 or 32 every time. Many are avid readers and members of library book clubs.

The Burbank Public Library has a Friends group that runs a bookstore out of the Buena Vista branch. Books are donated and resold and all profits go to programs at the three public libraries.

“The Friends supports all the children’s, teens and adult programming so none of the money comes out of the library’s budget,” Elliott said. “The Friends provides the funds for all teen summer reading programs, pay for refreshments, performers and the Little Free Libraries.”

They get so many book donations and they aren’t able to sell them all so they are letting the teens go through the donations and pick out books for the Free Little Libraries.

The teens decided to put paperbacks and children’s books in the Bikeway location. Paperbacks would be easier to carry for people who are on bikes or walking their dogs and a lot of families use the Bikeway. Online research by the teens found that 80% of the riders on the MetroLink are commuting to work, so they will be placing hardbacks in that little library.

“And because the ridership on the buses is more multicultural we might have some Spanish language materials in the bus stop library,” Elliott said.

The plan is for the teens to keep filling the little libraries and earn high school service hours.

Goldman worked with the city of Burbank to get permission for the project and the Public Works Department will install them.

“We are very grateful to them!” Elliott said.

JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at

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