LAKE PLACID - Last summer, Laura Coffin and her daughter Lexi scoured the Family Champions thrift store in Tupper Lake for books. As the Lake Placid Elementary School's reading specialist and director of its annual summer reading program, Coffin is always looking for inexpensive books to purchase, and these 25-cent offerings were just what she was looking for.
Inside the store, a stranger asked the mother and daughter if they'd ever been to the free library next to the Raquette River Brewing Company. Unsure of exactly what a free library was, Coffin and Lexi took a drive down to find an outdoor chest full of books attached to the exterior of a building.
"And sure enough, that's what was there," Coffin said.
News photo — Antonio Olivero
Lake Placid Elementary School Reading Specialist Laura Coffin showcases some of the books that will be in the three new ‘Little Libraries’ she is installing at two locations in Lake Placid and one in Wilmington.
"I thought, 'This is the coolest thing. I need one of these,'" she continued. "'Lake Placid has got to have some of these. And I know exactly where I'd put it.'"
Thanks to several thousand dollars in grants and charitable contributions, Coffin plans to bring three "Little Free Libraries" or "Little Libraries" to Lake Placid in time for summer. They will come in the form of 18-by-24-inch shelving units currently being built by elementary school custodian Dave Mayberry.
Two interior shelves will possess enough room to stock several dozen children's books inside Plexiglas doors. On an honor system, local schoolchildren will use a trail-register-like journal to sign out books.
Coffin has funded the Little Libraries project through myriad means, including receiving $1,000 worth of books and $250 in cash via a literacy grant from the Penguin Random House Teacher Awards.
With the grant, Coffin and her students picked out dozens of books, enough to fill two boxes that were shipped to her quaint classroom. These will be some of the first installments placed in the Little Libraries, including student favorites such as biographies and the "Horrible Harry" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series.
Coffin has also received $1,500 from the Lake Placid Rotary Club, a $2,000 grant through the Adirondack Trust Company Community Fund and $200 through the Lake Placid Educational Opportunity Fund.
The last piece to the Little Libraries monetary puzzle is a current Adirondack Gives crowdfunding campaign (adirondackgives.org/campaigns/lpes-summer-reading-and-little-libraries/). Through Wednesday morning, $600 of the $1,000 goal had been raised thanks to eight donations, with 34 days remaining. Any other funding will come from Coffin's annual reading budget of $4,000 at the school.
At the elementary school, Coffin said she has hundreds of more donated books that will be placed in the little libraries in the future.
"I've had some people give me used books, and all the books from last year are squirreled away in other parts of the building," Coffin laughed.
From day to day, Coffin works with two teaching assistants to provide reading assistance to about 80 of the school's 279 students nearly one out of every three in the school.
She's been working there for 16 years, is now in her ninth year as reading specialist and has overseen the summer reading program for several years. But this idea of Little Libraries excited her in a different way because it enables her to bring books directly to the students she is trying to help.
That's why these new libraries will be placed in three residential areas of Lake Placid and Wilmington Coffin has deemed would benefit the most.
When she first saw the little library in Tupper Lake, she immediately thought of the Cascade Acres mobile home park, her school's busiest bus stop. Considering the difficulty of travelling to the Lake Placid Public Library from Cascade Acres, Coffin thinks the students there will benefit from a little library.
"The largest part of the 42 percent of our population that has free and reduced lunch lives at Cascade Acres," Coffin said. "And that's the population I want to reach, kids who don't typically have access to that."
The second location Coffin plans to install a little library is on Wesvalley Road at 25 Com Link Way, near Copper Way, an apartment complex that serves as the school's second biggest bus stop. Coffin has not yet decided on the third location in Wilmington.
Coffin found templates for little libraries at LittleFreeLibraries.org and passed along the dimensional breakdowns for Mayberry to craft, using wood donated by Lamb Lumber. She said she plans to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the libraries in June.
Once they are in place, Coffin and other LPES staff will make regular stops at the locations to check on the structures and restock the 50 or so books inside its doors.
"If I can't hand-deliver them to people's houses, I need to get them in their neighborhoods," Coffin said. "That's my thinking: I need to look at where do I have a lot of students and where they cannot walk to the library themselves."