Franklin Ave Elementary unveils a new “Little Free Library”

WTA Construction Tech students (L-R) Lauren Capannola, Matthew Thayer, Instructor Matt Gomes, Ava Hardie and Liza Sapitova stand next to the Little Free Library they built for Franklin Avenue Elementary School. (Photo by Amy Porter)

WESTFIELD – Franklin Ave. Elementary School held a dedication for their new Little Free Library on Monday morning with students and special guests. Principal Chris Tolpa explained that Little Free Library is an international organization, whose motto is Take a Book, Share a Book. “They’re yours to keep,” Tolpa said.
She said the school’s Little Free Library was paid for by a grant from the Westfield Foundation for Education and built by Westfield Technical Academy carpentry students. Instructor Matt Gomes and four students interviewed 20 Franklin Avenue elementary students last year, and asked for their ideas on what the Little Free Library at their school should look like.
The students said it should have hearts – the School’s motto, a dragon, the school’s mascot, and a place to offer book reviews and suggestions. One student also wanted it to have a “bean stalk.” All of these ideas were incorporated into the Little Free Library the WTA students designed and built.
Lauren Capannola, a senior in Construction Tech, said the project was “super fun.” She said the group figured it out together. Lauren and junior Ava Hardie put the design on the computer, and created the plans. Some of the design elements were cut out on a Computer Numerial Control (CNC) router. Junior Liza Safitova did the painting, and sophomore Matthew Thayer applied the shingles. They built the Little Free Library at their high school, and delivered it to Franklin Ave. last week.

Franklin Ave. Principal Chris Tolpa explains the Little Free Library project to the students, and introduces Westfield Foundation for Education guests. (Photo by Amy Porter)

WFE President Laura Taylor, Vice President Lindsay Panis and Treasurer Mary Jazdel also came to the dedication of the Little Free Library, which was funded during last year’s grant cycle. “We’re very happy with it,” Taylor said.
Also present for the dedication were State Rep. John Velis, State Sen. Don Humason’s legislative aide Michelle Moriarty, Mayor Brian P. Sullivan, WPS Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, and Administrator of Student interventions Christopher Rogers.
All of the elementary students came down to the gymnasium for the unveiling. “Today is a special, special day, and we have a special surprise,” Principal Tolpa said to them.
She introduced Gomes and the students who helped to build the library. Gomes said the students had to figure out how to take the imagination of the elementary students they met with last year to create the library. He said the process was one of trial and error, but the students’ ideas were great.
Tolpa then asked some of the students who shared their ideas to come forward. She said one suggested the logo HEART, which stands for Humor, Effort, Attitude, Responsibility and Teamwork. Another suggested putting on a chalkboard to write on, and others suggested a “Jack and the Beanstalk” design motif, and another rainbows.
Tolpa said she asked for it to go on wheels, so in the summer, they can put it outside for anyone in the community to take a book and share a book.

Franklin Avenue students unveil the Little Free Library. (Photo by Amy Porter)

The students then pulled the tarp off of the Little Free Library, to the delight of everyone in the room. The Little Free Library incorporates all of the ideas of the students. There are four bookshelves on the front, with glass doors and a shingled roof. On one side is a cutout dragon, and on the other the HEART theme. On the top of the cabinet is a house standing on a beanstalk, with a slot for suggestions. There are also rainbows painted on it.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Little Free Libraries are found in every state and in 70 countries. Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

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