Dowagiac teen adds Little Free Libraries as Eagle Scout project

DOWAGIAC — While most teens use the weekend to relax and unwind from the school week, one local teen ventured out into the cold Sunday morning to install structures around Dowagiac that will provide free books for residents for years to come.

Michael Symonds, a 17-year-old senior at Dowagiac Union High School, installed three new Little Free Libraries around the city of Dowagiac Sunday as part of his Eagle Scout project. Each of the Little Free Libraries — one at First United Methodist Church, one at Walter Ward Park and one at Justus Gage Elementary School — were constructed from recycled newspaper receptacles and are painted in the Dowagiac Chieftain colors, with an orange body and black roof.

“This gives free and easy access to anyone who wants a book or needs a book,” Symonds said. “This for anyone who wants to read more, learn to read or get a better education just through reading books.”

Little Free Library is a nationwide nonprofit organization and movement that inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world, according to the organization. Little Free Libraries provide 24/7 access to books, seeking to encourage a love of reading and provide neighborhoods an opportunity to foster pride in a common project, according to the Little Free Library website.

“Some people might think that reading isn’t cool — it is cool — but this is a discrete way to get books,” Symonds said. “If you are too scared to go to the library or you can’t go to the library, this is a free way to get books, no paperwork or anything. You don’t even need a library card. You don’t even need to bring it back. You can leave a book or you can take a book.”

Approved for his Eagle Scout project in August, Symonds said he was excited to see his project completed and that he was inspired to construct Little Free Libraries as his Eagle Scout project not only by the recent push by the city to add more Little Free Library sites, but also by his own love of reading. He said he has been reading for as long as he can remember, favoring comic books and science fiction novels, with “Harry Potter” being one of his favorite series.

“Reading is good for everyone,” Symonds said.

Scoutmaster Ted Theisen was onsite Sunday to help Symonds install his Little Free Libraries. Theisen said he believed the Little Free Libraries made for a good Eagle Scout project that will continue to serve the community for a long time to come.

“I’m really excited that [Symonds] found a way to recycle materials for this,” Theisen said. “[Symonds’ Eagle Scout project] shows that he is wanting to show leadership in the community and be involved in the community.”

Symonds said he hopes Dowagiac residents will take advantage of the Little Free Libraries because he said he loves his town and wants to see more books in the hands of residents. He also asked anyone who wanted to donate books to the libraries to leave them at one of the Little Free Library sites.

“I’ve lived in Dowagiac my whole life. I go to school here,” he said. “I like to be involved [in the community]. … Everyone needs to do their fair share to give back, whether it be small or big.”

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