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Natick - Local Town Pages

Little Free Library Workshop Brings Community Together

By Sean Sullivan
A recent transplant from Boston, Natick resident Amanda Formica was looking to establish pathways of connection with her newly adopted town. And while attending Natick Days last year, the spark of an idea was inspired.
That event’s random and diverse stations showcase the town’s resources, the talents of its residents, and something of the energy on display translated into a project that Formica was keen to take on.
Natick’s Little Free Library workshop was the result.
Touted as the world’s largest free book-sharing movement, The LFL specializes in creating stations throughout communities where a resident can take a book that catches her eye. The cabinets are a cross between mailbox and birdhouse, with a see-through door that discloses its contents and purpose to passersby.Most LFLs are outside, and so feature a slanted roof to keep the elements from infiltrating the pages of that potential summer read. The cabinets also serve as receptacles for reading material, places where books can just as readily be dropped off.
According to the Little Free Library’s literature, there are about 150,000 of the book boxes worldwide.       
“I’d been looking for ways to get involved in the community,” said Formica. “We wanted to support literacy. This is kind of the idea that we came up with.”
She started reaching out to community stakeholders to get the project going, with Natick’s Morse Institute Library being a good start. Library staff embraced the effort, and offered space a few weeks ago for residents to gather and assemble the cabinets. The library stipulated that the resource must remain free to residents.
“I took that as a challenge to find funding for the project,” said Formica.
The Natick Center Cultural District partnered on logistics and fundraising, with Mathworks and Eversource signing on as sponsors for the project.
Yet while there’s no fee to give or grab a book, the boxes themselves come with a cost. Component kits for each cabinet were handcrafted by Amish artisans in Wisconsin, purchased for about $220 each, and came unassembled. 
Formica drew on community labor when assembling the cabinets, turning the event into a workshop where more than a dozen families were shown how to put the boxes together and learn some woodworking skills to boot.
“And provide an opportunity for people to have fun,” added Formica.
Where the Natick residents lacked the know-how to assemble the cabinets, Farid Quraishi was on hand to lend some expertise. A longtime-friend of Formica, he is a carpenter and educator who journeyed from his Burlington, Vermont home to assist in the project.
Quraishi went from table to table during the July 9 workshop at the Morse library, dispensing tips on woodcraft.  Participants also learned how they could use their new LFL boxes as doorways to greater community connection and engagement.
When finished, the Morse library filled each with a collection of books to jumpstart each little outpost of the circular lending economy.  
Fourteen Little Free Library boxes resulted from the workshop, and most will be located streetside on the property of residents who constructed them. Hosts of the LFL boxes pledged to have theirs installed by the end of last month, and an official tour touting the project is planned for October. 
Each cabinet can be registered with the Little Free Library organization, and an app is available that puts a digital pin on a map for every book box nearby the user. The LFL has cabinets in countries throughout the world.