When Chris Dodge looks at a map of Little Free Libraries in the U.S., she gets wistful — and encouraged.
"It's all solid red dots. They're all over the place," said Dodge, a former teacher at Smith Elementary here. "But there were very few south of Interstate 20, and for miles around there was nothing.
"Now, that's starting to change."
The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/2kxes5P ) reports Dodge and a coterie of allies — including construction and architecture students at Duncanville High School — plan to design, build and distribute Little Free Libraries across the city over the next few weeks.
About 50,000 Little Free Libraries — mini-structures that house a variety of books that are often placed in front of homes, schools and businesses — have sprouted around the world. Readers are encouraged to take books, read them, return them or replace them with others.
After placing a library at Duncanville's Trinity United Methodist Church, Dodge thought they should be more prevalent in her city. She approached Duncanville High School principal Tia Simmons, and the first-year school leader practically finished her sentence for her.
"She said, 'Oh, let's get our shop kids to build those,' " Dodge remembers.
Simmons was familiar with the concept of Little Free Libraries when she was principal at a school in Spring ISD near Houston and was eager to expand the concept at her new school, she said.
"There's never been an idea that's come to me before that I haven't had some babies who could work on it," Simmons said. "It's a kind of trust that, yes, we have some people who can get this done for our community."
In Tamara Gurnell's afternoon Advanced Technology Construction class, students busily construct the libraries, outfitting them with personal touches designed by Marissa Alsabrook's architecture students.
"It's pretty amazing," said Melissa Perez, a senior who plans to major in architecture in college. "It's like when you were younger and you draw something and you say, 'Hey, I want to do this,' and you get to see it happen."
As she talks, Perez watches students put a roof on a library that she designed.
"I like to see my personality come out in these projects. It's my favorite thing," she said.
She's also a major cheerleader for the project, excitedly mentioning that the first one will be unveiled at Armstrong Park, a focal point for several city events.
"We're thinking of making a facade that looks like a giant row of books," she said. "Hopefully, we can encourage people to make their own (libraries)."
There are plans to roll out 12 libraries during the project's first phase, Perez said. In addition to Armstrong Park, organizers eventually hope to place libraries at all nine elementary schools, Rotary Park and possibly Harrington Park.
The Rotary Club of Duncanville gave approximately $550 toward the project, Dodge said, and DeFord's Wholesale Maintenance Supply donated lumber. The libraries will be under the stewardship of the Kappa Upsilon chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International, a women's educators service organization.
"Just about everyone in town is helping," Dodge said, estimating that it costs about $75 to build each library.
Gurnell, in her third year at Duncanville, describes her class as "wood shop on steroids," as students rapidly move from project to project.
"This has been an amazing opportunity for students because they are learning how to give," Gurnell said. "We brought the idea to them in the fall but couldn't get to it until after the holidays. For some, this is the first thing they've ever built."
Construction duties are split among students who build roofs, some who build the main structures and others who build decorative touches.
"This is our first time to actually do construction work, so I'm excited," sophomore Diego Trevino said. "Before, we just did book work. Now, we're doing something big."
According to a nationwide map of Little Free Libraries, Dallas boasts about 30 locations. In addition, Arlington has 13, Mansfield has two, and Grand Prairie, Duncanville and Cedar Hill have one each.
"I'm always asking people, 'What do you like to read?' and that's what's neat about these libraries," Dodge said. "You can find all kinds of books there, from preschool all the way to adult books. I never dreamed I'd be helping to put a dozen of these all over town."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com
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