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St. Helens Arts Commission, city accept donations of more little libraries to be installed in parks

COURTESY PHOTO - This minature library, which will be registered with the Little Free Libraries nonprofit, was donated by Thomas OHanlon. The library will be installed at Campbell Park later this year.St. Helens will welcome two new miniature libraries to the city thanks to donations from community members.

The little libraries will be installed in Walnut Tree Park and Campbell Park later this year, increasing the public's access to literature in a somewhat unconventional way.

Lynne Pettit, on behalf of the Friends of the St. Helens Public Library, and Thomas O'Hanlon, a St. Helens resident, each made donations to the St. Helens Arts and Cultural Commission and the city for the new miniature library fixtures.

Pettit said the Friends of the St. Helens Public Library group has been donating miniature libraries to the city for about six years. The group currently maintains two small libraries at the St. Helens City Docks and the Columbia Pacific Food Bank.

During a discussion earlier this year, when the friends group was discussing upkeep of existing little libraries, its members decided now would be a good time to install a third one.

"We noticed so many children in the area," Pettit said, referencing high foot traffic along Columbia Boulevard where Walnut Tree Park is located, and where the third library will be installed.

COURTESY PHOTO - The Friends of St. Helens Public Library will be donating another little library fixture that will be installed at Walnut Park. The friends group currently maintains two other small libraries at the St. Helens City Docks and the Columbia Pacific Food BankPettit was careful to explain that the libraries are not registered with a national organization, called the Little Free Library program, which requires users to pay a fee to use the registered name.

While the Walnut Tree Park library is still being built, with completion expected over the next couple of months, the Friends of the St. Helens Public Library is already looking forward to the access members of the public will have when the library goes in.

"We thought how nice it would be to have a little library there for kids coming back from school," Pettit said.

Thomas O'Hanlon's donation will also feature a "Cat in the Hat" theme with a quote from children's author Dr. Seuss, which will be installed in Campbell Park. His library has been registered with the Little Free Library program, on the other hand. It is the second registered library in the city.

The Little Free Library program is a nonprofit group that promotes literacy through access to free books in areas that may have limited resources. The idea behind each fixture is for passersbys to take a book and leave a book. Registering a library costs $40, but then allows the structure to receive an engraved charter number and be included on a national registry of the Little Free Library Sharing Network.

In February, the St. Helens Arts and Cultural Commission received its first Little Free Library donation from St. Helens High student Justin Waid.

ACC Vice Chair Kim O'Hanlon started the project last year and recruited Waid to assist with construction of the library while she worked on the logistics of getting approval for it in the city's Grey Cliffs Waterfront Park. Thomas O'Hanlon, who is Kim's spouse, said he was excited to get involved with the project as a citizen.

"I got inspired by the recent Little Free Library Justin Waid did for Grey Cliffs Waterfront Park, and with having two small children, I wanted to contribute in my own way to the Arts and Cultural Commission's efforts of bringing more Little Free Libraries to the community," Thomas O'Hanlon noted in a message to the Spotlight.

Kim O'Hanlon said she is excited to see the project growing as well. Thomas got permision from Dr. Seuss Enterprises to use imagery on his design, and the organization will also be able to promote the work through its social media channels, she added.

"More Little Free Libraries around the city will significantly increase access to books, build community, and inspire creativity," Kim O'Hanlon stated in an email to the Spotlight. "These Little Free Libraries aren't just about books, they are also functional pieces of community art."

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