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Midvale Journal

Midvale Family Builds Little Free Library

Oct 08, 2015 01:14PM ● By Bryan Scott

The Midvale Free Little Library grand opening

By Stephanie Lauritzen

Natalie Oldham Clayton grew up spending her summers in the back of the family VW bus, listening to her mother read books out loud and traveling the country.  Raised by two educators, her parents used the time off during summer vacation to instill in her a passion for travel and literature, values Clayton hopes to pass on to her own children as well as in her Midvale community. 

“I grew up with my parents reading to me, and I want to create a place where kids or adults can come get books, because giving people opportunities to own and treasure books is so important to me,” she said.  

Despite growing up with parents who appreciated literature, Clayton remembers struggling to enjoy reading in junior high and high school.

“I couldn’t get excited until my mom sat down with me and helped me read the first chapter. After that, I was hooked. I started to realize that reading was a way to get a peek into another person’s world,” Clayton said.

These experiences inspired Clayton to seek out ways to bring the thrill and love of reading to her own city. 

Last spring, Clayton discovered the perfect opportunity to make books more accessible for Midvale citizens. After traveling through Tucson and Pasadena, she began noticing tiny community libraries filled with free books. Each library was part of a “Little Free Library” program, a neighborhood literacy initiative started in Wisconsin in 2009. 

Unlike traditional libraries, Little Free Libraries offer free books for all members of the community, no library card or membership required. Patrons can take books for as long as they want, or exchange them with a book of their own.  Clayton felt inspired by the tiny libraries, and last May, after waking up from a dream where she was “surrounded by libraries,” decided to build a Little Free Library in her front yard. 

Clayton was supported by her husband and her father, who helped design and build the library. 

“I wanted the library to look like our house, so I asked my dad to design a Little Free Library that matched the features of our house,” Clayton said. 

Making the library look like her home helped her family feel like they were participating in a “family event,” as her husband and son worked together to build the library, and her other children helped gather book donations to help prepare for the official library opening. Clayton believes working together helped her family “get excited about reading, and helped us reach out to the community and get to know people better.”  

In order to raise funds for supplies, Clayton created a Kickstarter campaign, and was thrilled to receive enough funding for the library within 36 hours. 

“The response of support and interest has been phenomenal,” Clayton said. 

On Aug. 29, Clayton and Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Midvale Little Free Library. Seghini presented free books to children attending the ceremony, as well as donated children’s books for future use at the library. 

Seghini grew up on Grant Street, where the library is located, and is a passionate advocate for children’s literacy.

“We want books in your house that parents can read to their children, and that children read to grown-ups, because that’s really important,” Seghini said. 

Seghini donated several books designed to bring communities together, including the children’s book “The Big Orange Splot”, a book “about a neighborhood that changes when one person makes a difference, and helps everyone learn to be their true selves.”

Seghini hopes that by participating in Midvale’s Little Free Library program, people will read more and learn through literature that “books are best friends that will love you forever.” She also hopes that reading together and maintaining the library as a community will help Midvale citizens remember that “we’re all the same, because we laugh and cry and we love each other.”

Clayton and Seghini are not the only Midvale residents passionate about books. In addition to the books donated by the Clayton family and the mayor, Midvale residents dropped off book donations throughout the summer in preparation for the library opening. 

Clayton will monitor donations and make sure the library is always stocked with books for all age ranges and reading abilities. She also set up an Instagram account, @littlefreelibrarymidvale, to keep residents up-to-date on happening at the library, as well as schedule future donations.

Midvale’s first Little Free Library is located at 7889 South Grant Street in Midvale, Utah.