Skyline students are building 28 little neighborhood libraries for bookish Ann Arbor

Lisa Read and Anton Draayer stand before the prototype they built of a little neighborhood library.
Lisa Read and Anton Draayer stand before the prototype they built of a little neighborhood library. They and some classmates are busy building 27 more of them.

By Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor

Here’s yet another reason to root for spring: Along with the forsythia and daffodils, 28 little neighborhood libraries will pop up here and there.

And it’s all thanks to Lisa Read and Anton Draayer, two seniors in Skyline High School’s Design, Technology and Environmental Planning Magnet, working with a grant from the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, and support from the Haisley Elementary PTO.

Lisa and Anton have been busy building wooden structures they plan to give to the Haisley PTO to install at seven sites in that neighborhood and at Peace Neighborhood Center, with the other 22 to be distributed to other schools in the district, including King, Wines, Allen, Ann Arbor Open and Abbot.

These “little neighborhood libraries” will provide an easy way for people to share their reading materials by leaving books, and taking those left by others.

Lisa and Anton are excited about their senior project.

“When we were presented with the opportunity to make the libraries for Haisley Elementary,” says Lisa, “we thought it was a really cool idea because it’s a great way to contribute to the community and help out all the elementary schools in Ann Arbor.”

Anton said he likes the idea of helping to get books into the hands of those who can enjoy them.

‘”Otherwise books just sit around and go to waste,” says Anton.

The Little Free Library movement began in Wisconsin in 2009, as more and more of these small receptacles for used books began to spring up around the world. They are available for sale online starting at $174.95.

In order to avoid the fees associated with that program, the Skyline students decided to build their own libraries and call them “little neighborhood libraries” to avoid any trademark infractions.

The students have been working on them in class, and hope to enlist help from their classmates.

According to Haisley PTO Vice President Melissa Cunningham, it all began when the PTO put out a little free library in front of Haisley last summer after hiring someone to make it for the cost of the wood.

It was well used, and the PTO in the fall discussed having more made. Fourth Grade Teacher Audi Hahn said she knew a Skyline teacher whose students needed a senior year engineering project.

Soon, Lisa and Anton had submitted a project proposal, funding was secured from the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, and the project was on.

Haisley’s fifth grade Girl Scout troop will help paint the little libraries March 20. Lisa and Anton have also volunteered to give the troop a tour of Skyline’s engineering program.

“I’m impressed that these two students have been so incredibly professional,” said Cunningham, “that they’ve completely taken on an entire project, with no oversight from us, applied for the grant themselves, and just taken total charge I think they’re going to have fabulous futures.”

Also helping make these Haisley neighborhood libraries happen are PTO member Jennifer DeCapua, and teachers Ellen McGee and Thomas Pachera.

The students are also grateful to Makerworks on Plaza Road for allowing them to use its facility and resources.

Cunningham said she’s sure these little neighborhood libraries will be a hit because Ann Arbor is such a literary community.

“Reading is something we all know is essential to children’s imagination and growth, and something we want to promote. And the parents are excited about exchanging and donating books.

“I don’t think keeping the libraries stocked is going to be an issue,” she said.

The students still have five little neighborhood libraries that have not yet been reserved. To make a request or inquiry, email:




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  1. Way to go, Lisa! What a terrific project and contribution to the community.

  2. I applaud what these young folks have done! And thanks to AAPS Educational Foundation for supporting this great project. As garden coordinator for the Dicken Elementary PLANT Garden, I wish I had known about the extra little neighborhood libraries earlier. A few weeks ago I ordered a Little Free Library kit for the school garden. A teacher’s husband has graciously agreed to put it together and stain it. It will be going in a new reading garden that is part of this year’s expansion of the vegetable garden at the school.

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