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Ashland - Local Town Pages

While Access to Library Buildings is Limited, Little Fee Libraries Fill a Need

Sep 29, 2020 11:01AM ● By Cynthia Whitty

These days, when library building access is limited, it’s good to know you can access free books around town with newly built little free libraries.

Little libraries are now located at the Ashland Farmers Market, 125 Front St.; Ashland Community Center; Ashland Town Hall; the Mindess, Pittaway, Warren, middle, and high schools; the Oak Street entrance to the town forest; and The Corner Spot.


Spearheading the little libraries project was Betsy Emberley, president of the Friends of the Ashland Library. “I had the idea to include a little free library at The Corner Spot [corner of Pleasant and Main streets] shortly after it opened four years ago so folks would be inspired to enjoy the space with a book. Then, when the pandemic hit, it occurred to me that we could be in for long-term limits to library access and having little libraries in additional locations could help provide easier access to books for residents.”

This spring Emberley worked on getting approvals from the town and instituting safety protocols. “Before the end of March I approached the school superintendent and town management. It took a while to allow this initiative to come to the surface with so many more significant concerns. By mid-June we were able to discuss it, agree on safety protocols with guidance from the town COVID-19 Task Force, create a list of ideal locations, and get approval from the Select Board and then from the School Committee.”

Once the approvals were done, Emberley lined up volunteer builders. “Some of them donated the needed supplies and others got the materials we had arranged for them to pick up from Ashland Lumber. In the meantime, we collected donations from residents, quarantined [the books] in our family’s garage, had our [Friends of the Library] book sale team sort them, stored them on bookshelves donated by even more residents as we waited for the little libraries to be built to house them.”

“We solicited a set of little library adopters and set them each up with about 30 books from the donated, quarantined, sorted, and stored collection. In July, we started adding the second through seventh little library, which were stocked as soon as they were installed. Now we’re waiting for two more to be completed, plus there’s another one being built by a Boy Scout as part of his Eagle Scout project.”

Phase Two

“We’ve already started talking about a phase two set of little libraries, including one by the community gardens, which would feature large print books to benefit the nearby senior housing residents. We have also identified a possible location on town-owned land in the neighborhood off Rt. 126 near the Framingham town line and are hoping to identify a location closer to the Holliston end of 126. Mill Pond Park might also be a nice spot for one.”

With so many residents involved in this town-wide project, Emberley says she regrets if she leaves anyone out. “The Summer Reading Program team was part of the planning as well as the board of the Friends of the Ashland Public Library. Claire Goss, Jenn Ball, and Ed Burman were key coordinators. Mauro Ciccarelli, Denis Phaneuf, Will MacDonald, Sam Pease, Mike Jones, Moises Barreto, Suzan Herrmann Taylor, and the Vernes family are all part of the building team.”

Each little library holds about 30 books and adopters keep them stocked with books they pick from the Emberley’s garage, where they are stored.

Adopters are Jennifer Follett and family, the Ciccarelli family, the Terry family, Girl Scout Troop 75356, Kamatchi Vijaykumar, Sue Brown, Robin Sherman, Reema Patnaik, Jan Poppendieck and Mike Jones, Ashland MOMS and Sujatha Mizar.

To get on the adopters’ waitlist or to donate gently used, relatively recent books of any genre, send an email to Emberley at [email protected]