Patrick Hester creates city’s first Little Libraries for Eagle Scout project
Westfield’s public parks are a place where residents can mix outdoor recreation with reading, thanks to a local Eagle Scout project by resident Patrick Hester.
“You just hope it has longevity. It feels good you started it,” he said.
Hester, 15, a member of Boy Scout Troop 107, is an avid reader and was looking for an idea for his Eagle Scout Project in the spring of 2013. His grandmother, Dixie Bendush, told him about the Little Free Library organization and similar projects in other communities. After some research on the organization’s website, Hester thought it would be a great project for the Westfield community.
“I like the idea of people spending time at the libraries, meeting and talking,” the Westfield High School freshman said.
Hester knew he wanted to place a few libraries as part of his project but as he talked with residents about the project, he recognized a need for more.
“We do too much on our phones and electronics,” he said. “I hope it’s another way for people to meet and socialize instead of looking down at their phones all the time.”
Hester has planted libraries in four locations, including two as part of the Westfield Parks and Recreation Dept. The first library, next to the south playground at Asa Bales Park, 211 N. Union St., has books written in English and Spanish. Hester said the Spanish books were a special request from Westfield Parks Director Melody Jones as a way of helping with the City of Westfield’s Hispanic Outreach.
Hester said each location was specifically chosen for a reason.
“The second is located at the Monon Trailhead off Greyhound Pass for all the walkers, runners and bikers that stop there for a rest,” he said. “The third is located on the patio at the Downtown Westfield Association on South Union Street, a busy walking area for many Westfield residents.”
The final library is at the Bed and Biscuit Kennel Bark Park on West Ind. 32. The Bed and Biscuit is home for the Indy Great Pyrenees Rescue, which the Hester family has been part of for many years.
“My family’s been involved the past six years and my brother did his Eagle Scout project there,” Hester said.
The total cost of building the libraries was approximately $1,600, with funding being donated by family, friends and neighbors. The rest of the cost Hester made up for by working summers at Conner Prairie, where he pulled wagons for guests of the Symphony on the Prairie series in 2013 and 2014.
To fill the libraries, Hester collected more than 750 books from family, friends, neighbors, members of his Boy Scout Troop and a generous donation of Spanish-written books from Half Price Books.
“Each library can hold 15 to 30 hardcover and paperback books,” Hester said. “It started small. The first month there weren’t that many donations. Close to the start of the school year, I was receiving 20 to 30 every Monday. Four hundred of the 750 came in the last month. It really stepped up at the end.”
Hester said the project itself more than 100 hours between the planning, fundraising, building and installation of the four libraries. For all of his work, Hester still sees this as a community initiative.
“I would like to thank all the generous supporters of this project and the members of my Boy Scout Troop 107 for all the help building the libraries and installing them,” he said.
While raising funds and finding approved locations were difficult, Hester said the hardest part of his project was the leadership it required.
“It really showed me how hard it was to start something new,” he said. “You have to stand back. It’s all about leadership and tell them what to do so they can learn. It’s not just about me but the other Scouts. This isn’t a one-person project.”
Jim Hester serves as a troop leader for his son, Patrick, and his older brother, Riley, who is an Eagle Scout.
“As a guy who barely made it out of Cub Scouts, it’s been really amazing to watch both of them grow – not just through their Eagle Scout Project but in general in Scouting,” Jim said. “Patrick is a quiet kid. He was a little out of his comfort zone to tell people what to do. It was a big learning curve to see the other boys respond.”
Jim described Patrick as “an avid reader” and isn’t surprised his project involved books or the library.
“He read the final Harry Potter book in less than 24 hours and could recite it back to you,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to do something different. So many Eagle Scout projects are alike. It’s really neat to see something truly different.”
Patrick has two merit badges to complete before his Eagle Board of Review, which he plans to complete before the end of this year. This year, Boy Scout Troop 107, which is chartered by Christ United Methodist Church in downtown Westfield, has had six scouts earn the rank of Eagle.
How it began
Take a book; return a book … A simple idea created by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks in Wisconsin. It started as a project to pay tribute to Bol’s mother in 2009. The next year in 2010, with the help of Brooks the Little Free Library movement began with a network of libraries, stewards, signage, social support and World Wide Web registration. The two men had a goal of 2,510 installed libraries, one more than the number of public libraries Andrew Carnagie started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By 2012 the little start-up became an official Wisconsin nonprofit organization. That same year, they surpassed their goal of 2,510 libraries. By January 2014 it is estimated that more than 15,000 Little Free Library have been registered across the world, but none in Westfield. For more information, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.
How it works
How do you use a Little Free Library? Do you need a library card? Do you need to read the book right then and put it back. The answers are easy: Simply take a book from the library the next time. There are books written for adults and young readers. Read it there, read it at home or any place you like. The next time you are by the library drop the book back off or drop off a different book. Take a book, return a book.