Shorewood’s Bryce Alexander, 18, gave himself a history assignment. When deciding what to do for his Eagle Scout project, the Minnetonka High School senior landed on building not one, but two Little Free Libraries, which host historical titles in their tiny abodes in Excelsior.
“For my project, I had a goal to leave a mark on my home community that would remain for many years to come,” Bryce says. “I also wanted to have an intellectual impact on my community that would grow a stronger connection between residents and their home. Finally, I wanted to expand my interests in engineering.”
This historical image of the actual Blue Line in 1912 provides a reference point for the newly-constructed Little Free Library.
Bryce heard about the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society’s (ELMHS) interest in having a Little Free Library (or two) located in Excelsior. Before moving forward with the project, he made presentations to the Excelsior Heritage Preservation Commission and Excelsior City Council, according to Mark Read, ELMHS president.
Bryce knew his idea would have lasting impact. “Not only would the structures stand out as structurally unique and add to the historical significance of the city, but [they provide] a connection to the land where each library stands,” he says. “The Excelsior Depot library is located a few feet from the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail, which represents the location of the railroad system that connected Minneapolis with Excelsior. The Blue Line Café library represents a café and boat rental that operated down the road from the [former] Excelsior Amusement Park. It is located in the Port of Excelsior across Water Street from where the original location of the café stood.”
The projects began in January 2022 and ended in August 2022. (Plywood was donated by Lyman Lumber and Home Depot.) Bryce notes that the projects yielded 150 collective building hours and another 50 hours for communication. He says, “For an Eagle Scout project, the scout running the project must plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project.” Therefore, some other scouts lent their hands to the project, as well.
Like so many things in life, a teacher inspired a movement. The first Little Free Library, created in Hudson, Wisconsin, was inspired in 2009 by the late Todd Bol’s mother, a teacher and lifelong reader.
In 2012, Bol and Rick Brooks co-founded the Little Free Library nonprofit organization (St. Paul). Its mission and vision, according to the website, are: To be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries. Our vision is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader. We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space or privilege.
The “take a book, share a book” program clearly resonates with so many people around the globe. It now has 150,000 little libraries in more than 100 countries with about 70 billion shared books annually. Imagine!