Little libraries pop up in Dowagiac

Michael Symonds shows the “free little libraries” he created as an Eagle Scout project for Dowagiac. He is a senior at Dowagiac Union High School.

DOWAGIAC — For the second straight year, a member of the Symonds family has completed an Eagle Scout project that benefits Dowagiac.

Last year, Chris Symonds created a sign at the entrance to the Rudolphi Woods Park for his project. This year, younger brother Michael Symonds just refurbished three old newspaper stand boxes to be new “little free libraries.”

The younger Symonds is 17 and a senior at Dowagiac Union High School where he is on the school robotics team. He takes classes at Southwestern Michigan College and plans to go there next year. He eventually wants to transfer to a four-year university to major in computer science.

Michael settled on creating the libraries after talking with Dowagiac officials about possible community service projects.

“I went to the city and they floated the idea of a little library,” he said this week. “I decided to do that. Giving away books for free seemed like a good idea.”

He said he started work in August and finished last week. The newspaper boxes were donated by Leader Publications and he then set about fixing them. The effort included sandblasting the outside surfaces and repainting them, replacing the glass on the front with plexiglass, putting on roofs and adding shelves.

“It says ‘take a book/leave a book’ on one side and my name and troop number on the other side,” he said. “The Dowagiac District Library donated books to start us out.”

He worked on it steadily over the months, primarily on weekends, and got help from other Scouts and family members. He said he’s kept track of the number of people helping him along with the total number of hours, which is up to just over 100.

The three “Little Free Libraries” are now installed at three locations. Books are available 24/7 at the First United Methodist Church, at Walter Ward Park and Justice Gage School.

Michael still needs to complete a few steps before he officially becomes an Eagle Scout, including turning in his application, writing an essay and getting letters of recommendation. He is a member of Troop 624 in St. Joseph and has been a Scout since the first grade. He’s earned 21 merit badges, including 13 Eagle-required badges.