The Droege family garage has become quite a popular place. In fact, it’s making national news.
The family, which includes dad Brian, mom Diana, and their four children, Edmund (11), Penelope (10), Clark (9), and Dax (7) were featured guests on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” on Sept. 26.
The subject? The library they run out of their garage.
“I was contacted by one of the show producers,” Brian said. “Penelope and I Skyped with her later that day and we found out about a week later that they were interested in having us on the show.”
So the family was flown to Hollywood and stayed at Universal Studios, spending a full day at Clarkson’s studio for the taping.
“It’s pretty special that we all got to be there. Each of us had an important part in the library, from changing and updating the signs daily to checking in and out books, chalking the sidewalks, shelfing returns, sorting donations and hanging out at the used bookstore,” Diana said.
“Even passing out popsicles on special event nights or helping our youngest readers find just the right book. The four kids ran this operation. We paid for the books and popsicles.”
The family lives in Fort Worth and all four children attend school in the Northwest ISD. Penelope is a fifth-grader, Clark a fourth-grader, and Dax a second-grader at Granger Elementary School; Edmund is a sixth-grader at Tidwell Middle School.
Brian is a fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Granger. The library started with books from his classroom library and from the family’s collection. Diana is also a book-buying enthusiast.
Penelope and her family created the library over the summer to share her passion for reading.
“I was looking for a job to do over the summer. I wanted to do dog walking, but we don’t even walk our own dog. So, that didn’t make sense,” Penelope said with a laugh. “I’ve always wanted to be the girl with the most books. With that in mind, my mom and I came up with the idea of running a library out of our garage.”
Clark added, “The more we talked about it, everyone had ideas for what to do and how they wanted to help.”
The library has six different bookcases filled. They have books across all genres, including graphic novels, fantasy, and informational. In all, there are about 800 books in the library, with the neighbors pitching in on the project.
“Our neighborhood has been incredible. We have had hundreds of books donated, which has allowed us to provide books for a much wider audience of readers,” Brian said.
There is no charge to check out a book, but one must have an official Doerge library card, which readers of any age can get. They can then check out as many books as they will read, Diana said.
“We have given out more than 100 cards this summer — including one to Kelly Clarkson!” Diana said excitedly. “We have the old-fashioned book cards and envelopes in the back of each book, and readers sign the card below the previous reader and turn it in to our librarians. We give them a due date slip, with a target date for return about two weeks away.
“We have a book drop at our front door so people can return the books at any time. Edmund took an old suitcase and cut a little door into it, added a pull knob and we’re happy to say it’s worked great.”
The family had never been to Universal Studios before, so they made the trip into a vacation, Edmund said.
And, of course the entire family are now Kelly Clarkson fans.
“I was very excited to meet Kelly Clarkson, but being on a talk show made me a bit nervous,” Penelope said. “I had heard some of her songs on the radio, but we listened to a lot of her music when we found out we were going to be on her show. She is amazing.”
The library, which started out as a summer project, is now a permanent thing, Diana said, thanks to the support of neighbors.
“It’s become something so much more. The Summer Garage Library turned into a community celebration of reading, and to see dozens of neighbors gather in our driveway to listen to a story, talk about books, or just catch up with each other after a long day — that is something we hope to continue,” Diana said. “With summer over and students back in school, we hope to engage our parent readers this winter, tapping them for book reviews and conversations around the same stories their children are reading.
“And, yes, we plan to keep this going for our community, adding more books and library activities as we go.”
To which Brian added, “The only way this works and becomes a story people are interested in following is through the involvement of our community. Without our community of readers, it is just an awesome collection of books in a garage.”