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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: 'Little Free Libraries' create connections across the city

By KATIE McQUAID
August 04. 2018 12:34PM
Finnegan Shea, 7, and his sister Sophie, 8, hold a few books from the “Little Free Library” in front of their home on Hanover Street in Manchester on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)



Karin Shea didn’t like Manchester when she first moved here about 12 years ago.

“I used to focus on the negativity,” she said. The wife of a city firefighter, she would get discouraged by things she heard on the dispatch scanner and read on certain Manchester-focused Facebook group pages.

She decided to stop paying attention to the bad news, and start discovering the city.

“If you look outside the negativity, there’s a lot going on here that’s pretty cool,” said Shea, who has grown her appreciation for the city by exploring it with her family by foot.

In April, Shea went a step further and decided to connect with her community by installing a Little Free Library in front of her 603 Hanover St. home. The tiny, brightly-painted, house-shaped structure with a glass door was built by her father-in-law, John Shea. It’s a place where her neighbors can share their favorite books.

“It’s been used quite a bit more than I thought it would be,” said Shea.

It has surpassed her expectations for community connections. People stop by to say, “Thank you.” The Sheas were invited to a block party. Her children, 8-year-old Sophie and 7-year-old Finnegan, are learning how to give back to the city.

The Little Free Library movement began in Wisconsin in 2009. These neighborhood book exchanges encourage anyone to take a book, leave a book, or both. Shea’s Hanover Hill Little Free Library holds Little Free Library charter No. 71535. It’s one of seven that can be found in Manchester, according to the LittleFreeLibrary.org worldwide map.

Erica Brooks, a community outreach specialist with Neighborworks Southern New Hampshire, installed Little Free Library No. 57325 in some green space at 249 Cedar St. as a way to help connect the tenants of the properties she works with.

“I think it’s cool to walk by and see kids reading books to each other, or taking books,” she said.

The Cedar Street library was built by the non-profit Girls at Work and has books for both kids and adults. While they have received many donations from outside the neighborhoods, Brooks said they haven’t had to tap into that stash because local residents are really using it, and stocking it themselves.

Brooks’ favorite story about her library is how a nearby family from Sudan is using a cookbook they found there.

“They’ve been making some of the recipes they found in the cookbook all together,” she said.

Anyone can start an official Little Free Library. At LittleFreeLibrary.org you can find plans to build your own as well as pre-built structures available for purchase. To be registered as an official Little Free Library and be included on the map, the owner must purchase a charter sign, engraved with their charter number, for about $40.

For more information, and a map of Little Free Libraries in Manchester and around the world, visit www.LittleFreeLibrary.org.

This is Easterseals

Congratulations to the staff and clients of Easterseals NH for winning a video competition by the National Home and Community Based Services Conference.

The video features the hit song “This is Me” from the film “The Greatest Showman.”

“This song has kinda become an unofficial anthem for people who are marginalized in society,” said Pam Dube, Easterseals NH’s senior director of communications. “It is a song about loving yourself and being proud of who you are.”

The video features a variety of clients and staff smiling, laughing and dancing to a version of “This is Me” sung by David Jenne, an Easterseals client who is blind.

As the first-place winner, Easterseals NH receives $2,000 and Jenne will be heading to Baltimore to sing at the national conference at the end of August.

You can see the video at www.easterseals.com/nh.

What have you seen that should be shared in The Scene? Send your ideas to Katie at Scene@UnionLeader.com.


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