by Jess Stern, AmeriCorps VISTA serving with City Year New Hampshire
During my first year with City Year New Hampshire, I did a lot of exploring of New Hampshire. During one of my trips to Hudson, New Hampshire, I came across a Little Free Library in a park. It was beautifully designed, looking more like a little home than a place to hold books, and I loved it. I loved that it gave people access to books year-round, I loved that it was self-sustaining through borrowing and giving books simultaneously and I loved that it was free! My immediate thought was, why don’t we have these in Manchester?
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to serve with City Year New Hampshire for a second year, this time as an AmeriCorps Impact VISTA. I had a lot of flexibility throughout the year to work on different projects and initiatives and build capacity at the site based on what I was passionate about. I dedicated the majority of my service year to building up our physical service program. This was the root of City Year, but is something that we didn’t always have the capacity for.
My manager gave me the chance to plan the programming for our April Break, when our students have the week off, but our AmeriCorps members are hard at work, training and serving. One of the aspects that I really wanted was a physical service day. As I was thinking through what we could do to help better Manchester, I thought of the Free Library I came across in the park. I knew it was possible for us to do, we just needed the resources to do so.
We have been so fortunate to work with Girls at Work in the past, and once the plan was told to them, they eagerly hopped on board as a partner in this project. The resources and assistance in assembling were insurmountable. AmeriCorps members came in during their April Break to build and paint the libraries, beautifully decorating them with school colors and symbols! City Year’s VISTA team then went back to Girls at Work to prepare them to be installed. This involved putting them on posts and creating attaching doors. The three libraries that were built were then planted outside of three of the elementary schools where our AmeriCorps members serve: Gossler Park, Bakersville and Parker-Varney.
This was an all-hands-on-deck project, and could not have been done with everyone involved! I love that we were able to do this for the Manchester community. Access to free books all year long is something that our students and their families will truly appreciate.