WATERVILLE — It looks like a purple kitchen cabinet, but the small box outside the transportation center on Water Street is actually a library.

Open 24 hours a day and with no library card required, the city’s first Little Free Library is packed with books for people of all ages in an area where residents might not find it easy to get to the Waterville Public Library.

And there may be three more in the area soon.

The miniature library was designed by teens at the nearby South End Teen Center as part of a project sponsored by the Waterville Rotary Club, and it was built by local woodworker Chuck Lakin.

Last week the teens filled the new library with donated books.

There are about 25,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide, according to the program’s website, and the numbers continue to grow.


The Rotary hopes to install three more Little Free Libraries in the Waterville area besides the one on Water Street. The others are planned for North Street near the Alfond Youth Center, as well as in Oakland and Winslow, said Tina Chapman, the club’s vice president and community service chairwoman.

“The Rotary has been doing a lot of projects around literacy, and so we raised a little money that we wanted to use to implement a Little Free Library in the Waterville area,” Chapman said.

She said the plan is for the Rotary to help build the libraries, then work with other community groups to fill and maintain them.

A group of about 10 teens from the South End Teen Center helped come up with a design for the miniature library, which has room for about 90 books and is attached to a post outside the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program transportation center, next to the teen center on Water Street.

“We had to learn the art of compromise,” said Steve Soul, a coordinator at the teen center. “We were assigned the task of trying to find a blueprint for the library, and it was a matter of taking a bit of one idea and a bit of another.”

In the end, the teens decided to go with a purple-and-white decor, representing the colors of Waterville Senior High School.


Sarah Sugden, director of the Waterville Public Library, said she sees the Little Free Library as an extension of the traditional library’s mission rather than an alternative.

“I love Little Free Libraries,” Sugden said. “In my dream, they would be everywhere throughout the community, making sure people had access to good books all the time. A lot of research has been done to show that one of the things that helps kids become strong and successful readers is just access to books.”

The library plans to help to supply the Little Free Libraries with book donations. Sugden said the library already receives more book donations than it can add to its collection because of space restrictions and duplication of materials, and the Little Free Library is a perfect place to put the extra books.

Lakin, who is known in the area for his custom-made coffins, said designing the little libraries was a fun challenge. The library has water-tight doors and a sloped floor to funnel away run-off, should any water sneak in, so it’s specially designed to protect books from the year-round weather.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Brianna Barstow, 15, one of the teens who painted and designed the library. “I think it will encourage younger people to read, and it’s something people can get to if they can’t walk to the library.”

“I think it definitely promotes reading,” said Soul, who is a retired teacher and former school principal. “It’s like our own little community stopping point to get books for free. With summer coming, reading is an excellent hobby to take on.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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