Pinellas Park Girl Scouts build small libraries

Juniors from Girl Scout Troop 151 with the library they built and installed at Belcher Academy in Largo. They also installed a library at Gulf Care Center in Pinellas Park.

The Juniors of Girl Scout Troop 151 of Split Pines Service Unit decided to put their own spin on the Little Free Libraries that have popped up all over the country for their Bronze Award project this summer.

These small libraries, generally enclosed structures in public areas that contain free books, operate under the notion of “take a book, return a book.”

“At first we thought it was hard to decide [what to do,] but then I just said, ‘Swap-a-Book,’” said Abi Dean, 11, of St. Petersburg. “I said, ‘Let’s do Swap-a-Book’ and then we voted on it.”

The group of about 10 Girl Scouts began designing the libraries in January. Then, this summer, they built them. Each was customized to fit their location.

One library was a former entertainment center that was donated for the project. Using a circular saw and other power tools, the girls cut the storage piece in half to turn it into a library and media center that they eventually installed inside at Gulf Care Center in Pinellas Park. Staff at the center plans to add wheels to the library, making it mobile so it can be brought to patients who are unable to leave their rooms.

They scouts built the other library from scratch. That one was installed outside Belcher Academy in Largo.

The troop reached out to friends, family and community businesses for supplies they needed. The paint was free from Solid Waste, while Home Depot and Lowes donated gift cards so they could purchase wood, tools and other necessary items. Many of the books that filled the libraries initially were donated by troop c0-leader Belinda Robinson.

The libraries were part of a sustainability project. The hope is that these libraries will sustain themselves.

“They’re supposed to swap books,” Dean said. “So it’s supposed to be sustainable even when we’re not helping with it.”

The Bronze Award is the highest award a Junior can earn. Each girl needed to log 20 hours on the project to earn her award and graduate to Cadet status.

It also helped prepare them for their next endeavor – the Silver Award, which is for groups of one to three scouts. The Gold Award is the highest award and given to those who complete a solo project.