BOZEMAN — Sometimes, it takes the creativity of children to make a big difference.
Longfellow Elementary School students are doing just that by making books more accessible to people out in their community.
You may have seen “lending libraries” somewhere out in your community before, but perhaps not quite like the ones being made as a part of ArtWorks Festival Auction Online.
It’s all a part of an effort at Longfellow Elementary School to bring reading into the community and behind each of these colorful doors and drawings are students making it happen.
“It helps people read if they didn’t have enough money to buy books,” says Kaitlyn, a first grader at Longfellow. “They can get books from here or put books in here if they have too many books.”
It’s a house for books, shining with little pieces of glass—and Kaitlyn is one of the kids behind it.
From behind her pink mask, Kaitlyn led MTN News down the line-up of a dozen similarly colorful libraries, some with books in them, others without.
“We have to figure out which pieces fit in a certain spot,” Kaitlyn says, pointing to her classroom’s library, titled “Sunshine” for the glass mural embroidered in its back. “We wrote messages under the tiles but I think they are missing now and I don’t know where they went. I think one was sunshine, let people be happy. I think another one was ‘let people be caring, be kind.’”
Kaitlyn points out that the library took her classroom two days to finish.
“I haven’t gotten to do that,” Kaitlyn says. “I’ve seen one, just not that big or that colorful.”
It’s a lot of work, she says, for a positive cause.
“Everybody should have a book to read,” Kaitlyn says. “Not just one book to read all the time because that would be the same book. Once you finished it, you’d have to start it over and do it again.”
“There’s not that many lending libraries in Bozeman and I thought it was super special to do this,” says Hudson, a fifth grader from up the hall.
Each carefully built, carefully decorated library is a centerpiece for the school’s ArtWorks Festival Auction.
At one time, 12 “lending libraries,” including the ones made by Kaitlyn’s and fifth-graders Noah, June, and Hudson’s classes, stood in the hallway.
“I think it’s very cool,” Noah says, standing before his class’s library, dubbed “Birds” for the colorful birds cut from paper, then installed on the home’s sides. “I love sharing art and stuff like that to the world.”
“It’s an opportunity for us to really engage with each other and work on something together that maybe we don’t work with those people a lot,” June says, who also helped with “Birds.”
And when you get to walk by them every day in your hallway, Principal Lauran Conwell says the reward comes daily.
“Parent-volunteers that came in on a Saturday, put them together,” Conwell says. “We had one parent who built them all for us in his shop and then brought them in his so it’s been a real effort for everybody.”
Each library will bring in money back to the school with every cent going back to the school’s many art programs or features.
“We have artists and residents from our community that come in and teach art lessons,” Conwell says. “We buy supplies. We have Shakespeare. We have all sorts of different art in our schools.”
But for Kaitlyn and her fellow students, it’s the meaning in each library that brings sunshine.
“They can just come by and take a book or give one,” June says. “It’s like a whole community thing.”
“That will be cool when I’m walking by and see the library that I made and just think of how good it was and cool it is to be out there,” Noah says.
Each library could then go in a yard, in front of a business, even a popular trail.
“I want them to feel like they are a part of the community and share, not being mean, and being able to read,” Kaitlyn says. “It felt good because when some people get negative, it doesn’t really feel good so that’s why it felt good when people put nice notes on there, not mean ones.”
The school’s goal is $20,000, with more than $9,000 in bids coming in as of Thursday, May 20.
The auction itself is set to end at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 21 so there’s still a chance for you to go online and take part in this auction and these libraries in getting them out into the community to showcase these students’ work as well as spread reading into the community.
You can also make your own bids by checking out the school’s auction page.
“If we want to maintain what we’ve been able to provide for the students as far as artists coming in and different programs coming into our school, it is important that we make that much money to have it back every year,” Conwell says. “Kids can go around the community now and say oh, I did that. That’s my piece. 20 years from now, they still have this piece that they did here at Longfellow and they can see it in our community.”