Little Neighborhood Library Builds Community


East Salem Rotary builds Little Neighborhood Library for Oregonians outside of the Self-Sufficiency Programs office.

SALEM – The children’s eyes light up when they see the Little East Salem Rotary Neighborhood Library stuffed with books sitting on the counter of the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) Self-Sufficiency Programs office in Salem.

“The father of an eight-to-nine-year-old girl went out of his way to thank us and his daughter said, “This is so awesome!” I wish you could have seen her expression – it was like she had just received a birthday present,” Maureen Casey, a member of the East Salem Rotary said. Casey also works as the Special Projects Coordinator for Catholic Community Services.

The East Salem Rotary Club has taken on the coordinating, building, installing and stocking of the Little Neighborhood Libraries in East Salem as their service project. Little Neighborhood Libraries are small wooden houses, about the size of a dollhouse, installed in places such as parks and neighborhoods for people to borrow books. They hold about 40 to 50 books for children and adults and include books in Spanish. The Neighborhood Library design for this ODHS one is by Salem architect Craig Carlson and was built by rotary member Ken Morin.

“The main point of rotary to bring people together to share backgrounds and to engage in civil service for the betterment of the community and help in international service,” Kevin Mannix, the club’s president, said.

The rotary picked the Self-Sufficiency Programs office at in North Salem because of the neighborhood’s high social service needs. They have installed five other Little Libraries in Salem.

“This is just one example of how communities can step up and partner to increase capacity to help strengthen families and build more resilient communities. The needs are so extreme that we can’t sit back and say, ‘Oregon Department of Human Services, you take care of it.’ It takes the entire community to support ODHS and families. Look at what we can do with just a little library. Reading is the foundation for lifelong learning – fostering success in school and life. Reading helps develop critical thinking and fosters creativity. When you’re worried about housing, food, clothing – you’re not thinking about buying books. We put libraries in neighborhoods where they are accessible to families and they’re free: take a book, read it and then put it back so other families can enjoy it as well,” Casey said.  

Janet Scott, Program Analyst/Community Partnership Coordinator at the Self-Sufficiency Programs office, said that the Little Library has been a very wonderful addition for the people who enter their building.

“It’s so welcoming. It recognizes that these are very special young people who come in to see us. We see their eyes light up because they know it is for them. It’ so positive to see for a family who may have been struggling,” Scott said.

Staff at the Self-Sufficiency Programs office recognize that they need community support.

“Our community members are key to the success of all of our families. We’re so excited to have this Little Library,” Scott said. The East Salem Rotary would like to encourage others to step up and support their Little Neighborhood Library project. They need new and gently used books to keep the libraries full. People can contact: Maureen Casey,  

To learn more about resources to create your own Little Free Libraries, access

About Author

Christine Stone is a Communications Officer with the Department of Human Services.

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