Our Little Free Library: Built by the Dines Family, Powered by the Roslindale Community

Hello, Literacy Change readers, I’m Jenn’s husband, David, and I’ll be guest blogging for this post.

We’re excited to finally give our Little Free Library its proper debut! While it’s been open for business for about a month now–and it’s definitely seen its fair share of activity already–we didn’t hang up the official sign until this weekend when I put the final touches on the paint. We think it looks great and are so happy that three generations of the Dines family collaborated in putting it together.

The Little Free Library on Cornell Street

The Little Free Library on Cornell Street in Roslindale, MA

Like Jenn, I’m an avid reader and all-around lover of books. When Jenn proposed hosting a Little Free Library at our home, I was 101% for it. I’ve seen other Little Free Libraries in Boston and loved the idea of providing our neighborhood with an inviting space to discover and share books. I’m so happy with the response it’s received so far.

I love checking it in the morning and finding a new set of books in it in the evening when I come home from work; while Jenn and I add a few books to the collection, it’s clear our neighbors are eagerly wasting no time in making this their own. I’ve met a few neighbors as they drop off books, with a few driving from a few blocks away to add to or take from the collection. I’m told by a neighbor across the street that he’s seen the same young boy take a new book from the library each day for the past week or so. I have no idea what books he’s taking home, but I couldn’t be happier knowing that this little fella takes advantage of the opportunity to find and explore new books.

Building the Library was a lot of fun.  My dad, who you can see below, is a great woodworker and must be credited with a majority of the work in putting it together. Jenn had sent some pictures of other libraries to him, and he took the idea and ran with it in his designing of the Library. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and thus had to do all the prep work over there so that we could assemble and install the library over the weekend when he visited recently. (Thankfully, his luggage came in a fraction of a fraction of a hair’s weight under the 50lb limit for checked luggage!) We assembled the library that weekend and I took a few hours here and there over the next few weeks painting it to match our house (which was it’s own small project), as I wanted it look like part of the neighborhood. You’ll see the handle I picked out below, which I think lends the whole thing its proper gravitas.

If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and visit our library, located at 185 Cornell Street, which is always open to share and accept what could be you or your neighbor’s new favorite book. Or, if Roslindale is a bit of a trek, check out the Little Free Library website and find one closer or host one of your own.

-David Dines

The humble beginnings of the library in our ad-hoc basement workshop.

The humble beginnings of the Library in our ad-hoc basement workshop.

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Humble beginnings part 2. We only found out that weekend that post/stand for the Library would take up most of our time, but it seems to be fairly stable and hopefully permanent now.

The regal lion who grants entrance and guards the valuable treasure inside!

The regal lion who grants entrance and guards the valuable treasure inside!

Rob "Pop-Pop" Dines standing proud and tall with the assembled Library.

Rob “Pop-Pop” Dines standing proud and tall with the assembled Library.

Adding the first books to the Library.

Adding the first books to the Library.

Three generations of Dineses helped put it together: Jenn was the Brains, Dave and Rob were the muscle, and Francine and Sophia provided moral support and final approval.

Three generations of Dineses helped put it together: Jenn was the Brains, Dave and Rob were the Muscle, and Francine and Sofia provided moral support and final approval.

Even before the Library was painted it was filled with the neighborhood's books!

Even before the Library was painted it was filled with the neighborhood’s books!

Adding the final touches to the paint this weekend. While it was functional when it was un-painted, it seemed a little shabby not having it painted.

Adding the final touches to the paint this weekend. While it was functional, it seemed a little shabby not having it painted.

Completed and Official!  The Little Free Library on Cornell Street in Roslindale, MA.

Completed and Official! The Little Free Library on Cornell Street in Roslindale, MA.

Author and Activist Michael Patrick MacDonald Visits the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School

I was both surprised and thrilled when my colleague Susan Lovett sent out an e-mail about arranging a visit for author and activist Michael Patrick MacDonald. I jumped in right away to help organize this event for our school, the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School.

Years earlier, I had taken Mr.MacDonald’s book All Souls: A Family Story from Southie out of the library and read it cover to cover over the course of a single weekend. The book is a memoir of MacDonald’s early life in South Boston during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the story that unfolds is much more than a personal narrative. All Souls offers a historical narrative with vivid first-hand descriptions of  Boston’s busing era and the influence of notorious criminal “Whitey” Bulger on the Southie neighborhood. The novel is also a spiritual journey of resistance and resilience on the part of young MacDonald, whose bright soul, curiousity, and dedication to his family and community shines through the trauma of living under the effects of poverty, crime, and death. The writing and publication of the book itself is a tribute to MacDonald’s bravery and activism, breaking the unwritten “code of silence” that long prevented the residents of the Southie neighborhood and others like it from reporting and discussing crime, drugs, and deaths plaguing their communities.

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My autographed copy of MacDonald’s first novel

 

During Mr. MacDonald’s visit to our school on Tuesday, the acclaimed author spoke to a group of about fifty of our students, who were specially selected to attend the event based on their commitment to social justice and community leadership. Mr. MacDonald talked about the City of Boston’s Gun Buyback program, and he read a passage from his second novel Easter Rising which discussed the post-traumatic stress he experienced following the deaths of his brothers. The students had many questions to ask Mr. MacDonald, and he thoughtfully answered each and every one of them.

After the presentation, students received copies of All Souls (one young man even brought his own hardback from home) and had the opportunity to have their books signed. The students were overjoyed to talk with a real author, and I saw many students reading their books in the hallways while walking back to class. In fact, I taught a class right after Mr. MacDonald’s visit, and I had to ask students to put their new books away to focus on the lesson – this is the kind of focus issue that I am more than happy to see!

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Students gather around MacDonald to have their books signed.

Two students from Academy 1 smile and show the cover of the book.

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Sixth grade student Rasha shows his beautiful smile as he stands next to Mr. MacDonald.

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7th graders Mikel and Kiajah look on thoughtfully while Mr. MacDonald autographs Kiajah’s copy of All Souls.

Over the course of the week, many teachers reported to me that students were carrying the books in their backpacks and “showing off” the autographed books to students and teachers alike. My colleague Alice Laramore commented that the students were treating the books “like a trophy” of Mr. MacDonald’s visit.  I myself have ordered additional copies to use with my intermediate and advanced ESL classes in the last quarter of the year as part of a unit on argument and persuasion – at the conclusion of the unit, students will produce argument essays about how to best prevent violence in an urban community. Mr. MacDonald sent me some photographs of toy gun buyback programs to inspire our students to perhaps organize their own drive. The note I received from Mr. MacDonald read: Jennifer, please share these images from past buybacks and concurrent toy gun turn-ins organized by middle school aged kids, in case that might inspire some local community organizing in the school with the local community. These toy gun turn ins (in exchange for non violent toys and books donated by businesses like Toys R Us and Publishers like children’s lit Houghton Mifflin) are very fun.  And it’s a great way for teens, pre teens, and the smaller children to feel a sense of voice and agency.

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Photograph of mothers from Charlestown as promotion for Boston’s third gun buyback

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Mr. MacDonald with a young activist and organizer

Mr. MacDonald’s visit was a perfect fit for our school – our building itself is a symbol of triumph over violence, as our school was built by activists on a lot that was once a hub of criminal activity. Formerly named the New Boston Pilot School, the Lilla G. Frederick (LILL-LUH, not LYE-LUH) is itself named for a Grove Hall community organizer.

A Thank You Letter from the Boston Police Department

I absolutely love receiving REAL mail. Mail that’s not advertising anything or informing me of my financial accounts. So, I got a little spark of excitement when I spotted a handwritten envelope in my mailbox at school. When I finally opened the envelope, it was something I never expected to see: a card from Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and an official Boston Police badge.

The card contained a thank you note for the written community support that the BPD received following the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the events that followed. It is intended for my ESL students from the 2012-2013 School Year, whose publication Being Bostonian: How We Make Boston Strong was written for and mailed to the Boston Police shortly after April vacation last spring.

My husband kindly and beautifully framed the card, letter, and badge, and I will present it to my students tomorrow. I am so proud of them, and I know they will be excited that their publication was recognized.

Boston Strong Card

Boston Strong Card

BPD Letter

Letter from Police Commissioner Ed Davis

BPD Badge

Boston Police Official Badge

Three Part Frame