The Little (Free) Library that Could–and the Retired Librarian Who Made it Happen

A Little Free Library in Central Texas (source: RedWhiteandGrew.com)

My “day job” is writing books–and supplying feature stories for a small neighborhood paper owned by The Boerne Star, an independent, 100-year-old Central Texas newspaper.

This article appeared in the August 2014 edition.

Little free libraries have been popping up nationwide for a few years, and now Leon Springs has one of its very own—all thanks to Vicki Krebsbach.

According to LittleFreeLibrary.org, “[in] its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share.” The idea is that in fostering literacy, community is cultivated, too.

Krebsbach, a retired school librarian who served Northside for three decades, saw a need for a mini-library in the Country Bend subdivision. “I’d been reading about little free libraries for some time and found them interesting. Last fall I talked to my neighbor, Chris Buckingham, who is a woodworker. He agreed to help me create a library in my front yard, but then we both got busy and let it hang.”

Krebsbach and Buckingham revisited the idea earlier this year and decided to follow through on the plan.

“Since the [San Antonio Public Library] bookmobile went away and none of the branch libraries are convenient, I wondered about access by local families to books. I thought we needed a place for people to go and I thought that I could do something about it because, you know, once a librarian…”
Krebsbach approached her neighborhood homeowner’s association to secure approval for the library and was successful. The Country Bend HOA even gave funds to help cover costs.

Buckingham and Krebsbach’s husband, Keith, did the hard work of getting the little library built. Among other sources, they visited Pinterest to look at a pin board featuring libraries. “We looked up styles that made the most sense for our neighborhood and worked from there,” said Krebsbach.
When Krebsbach was called to North Dakota following the death of a parent during the planning stages, Buckingham put together a cardboard mock-up and sent it to her for review. “A friend who is an artist did the painting on the front of the library. And the cedar post came from our creek bed.”

Once construction began, interest grew.

“As it was going up, people were curious about it, especially when the little deck went up. People would ask ‘What is that for?’ Chris and my husband would say ‘It’s a dance floor for squirrels,’ just to be funny.”

The door of this Little Free Library is Central Texas was hand-painted. The wood was harvested from a dry creek bed. Source: RedWhiteandGrew.com

The library had a soft grand-opening celebration on June 1 complete with wine, cheese, and a ribbon cutting. “A neighbor’s little girl, an avid reader, came over with a collection of books on dogs and horses to donate. It was great to see that happen.”

The new library is officially registered as a little free library, complete with a sign and number assigned to it by LittleFreeLibrary.org.

“I am the steward,” said Krebsbach, “and my hope is that we will switch out the books every couple of weeks. We’re trying to stock it with current, popular books. We don’t want old books. Right now we probably need more good children’s picture books, and I’m working on that.”

The library is stocked by donations, including many from a couple who owned a now-closed bookstore in Boerne. There are four sections: children, tweens, young adults, and adult books. Krebsbach is also working on a social media presence for the library. Down the road she envisions outreach initiatives such as a One Book, One Community project in which local residents would read a book simultaneously and gather to discuss it.

Krebsbach hopes other area residents will decide to launch their own little free libraries, and she’d like to meet with other stewards to come up with strategies for engaging residents. “There’s one library in Grey Forest and a big one in Boerne. It’s a wonderful idea. I’d love to see it spread.”

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Top Dog!: Leon Springs Family Fosters Dogs for Military Service

Mona and Ev Guitierrez with Vvasco

My “day job” is writing books–and supplying feature stories for a small neighborhood paper owned by The Boerne Star. This article appeared in the August 2014 edition.

It all began with a trip to San Antonio’s Top Brass Military and Tactical Store.

“My son is in ROTC and we went to the shop for him,” said Mona Gutierrez. “They had a Belgian Malinois puppy there, and my kids loved it. We learned that a number of the staff at the store had helped raised these dogs for military service through the Military Working Dog program at Lackland. My daughter was homeschooled at the time and she really wanted to do that, too, as a project.”

Several months passed.

“I then started the foster application process in secret. When it was time for the home visit, I told the kids that we were going to do it. They were so excited.”

The Gutierrez family received their first pup, Ppadriac, in February 2013. The double letters in the animal’s name signifies that he came from Lackland Airforce Base. Some of the dogs are named in memory of fallen soldiers.

Ppadriac lived in Leon Springs, doing puppy things and visiting Lackland for training, until mid-July of last year. Then the Gutierrez family packed up his military-issue gear and took Ppadriac to Lackland.

The drop-off process sounds much like a family leaving a child at a college residence hall or basic training, with the dog willing and eager to go to the kennel and the foster family experiencing mixed emotions. “When they get that big and powerful, they’re itching to go,” said Gutierrez, “and it’s really probably time. It’s just like a teenager.” Continue reading

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