Building literacy, one yard at a time
by The Press and Standard | May 2, 2019 5:00 pm
Last Updated: May 1, 2019 at 11:18 am
In the corner of their front yard, near the intersection of West Washington Street and Woodlawn Street, Megan Conravey and Jennie Meetze planted a seed of neighborhood involvement — a seed of literacy.
A large metal pot, filled with soil and planted with spring flowers, provides a firm foundation for a large white lantern.
“We happened upon the lantern in a store and knew right away this was exactly what we were looking for,” Meetze explained.
The lantern provides a different kind of light; it is filled with books.
The lantern became home to Meetze and Conravey’s Little Free Library, a worldwide initiative to share books, bring people together and create.
Started a decade ago, Little Free Libraries number over 36,000 and can be found in 70 counties.
Conravey and Meetze call their project “The Library Around The Corner.”
“I’ve known about the concept for a few years now,” said Meetze, who was born and raised in Walterboro and is the program coordinator at the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market. “My mother actually wanted to open one, but that never happened, so I’m glad Megan and I finally decided to get it done!”
“Growing up in and around New Orleans, I’ve seen them all over,” added Conravey, who is employed at TRU Training+Simulation Inc. in Goose Creek. “I have always loved them and wondered who did them. My friend Veronica recently opened one, and that gave us the push to finally establish one ourselves.”
With the lantern firmly planted in their front yard at 223 Woodlawn St. on April 7, they got the word out.
Meetze and Conravey announced to a small group of neighbors that their library was open for reading and exchanging.
The next day, the library was full to the brim. Children, teens and adults are welcome to read, swap and share books in the hope of starting book clubs and more.
“There are just so many great books out there, and one of the best things is that the Little Library reflects the tastes of its patrons. Things that I may have never given a second glance at in a bookstore or library may intrigue me simply because someone else thought a book worthy of sharing with others,” said Meetze.
“We’ve received some cool books,” Conravey said. Jennie has already read “Night Witches,” a book about all-female Russian fighter pilots during World War II. They also received “The Hobbit,” “Deception Point” and “World War Z.”
“Books are essential to community connection. It’s great that we can do our part to help share the knowledge in our own little corner of the community,” Conravey added.
“Right now, adults seem to be using it more, but we do have two Young Adult novels and we’d love to see more children’s books for neighborhood kids to use,” Conravey said.
Meetze said, “We hope with time to have a strong reading community.
“I always have a book nearby, and I’ve been known to carry books with me wherever I go. You never know when you might need an escape or distraction!” Meetze said.
“I enjoy biographies, true crime, mystery, and historical fiction/nonfiction the most. In all honesty though, I’ll read anything except romance novels,” Meetze said.
Meetze said if she has to pick a favorite author, she’d go with Edgar Allen Poe. “He was one of the most important and influential American writers of the 19th century. He was the first author to try to make a professional living as a writer, and much of Poe’s work was inspired by the events that happened around him. He was truly a literary pioneer. Poe completely transformed the genre of the horror story, was one of the first science fiction writers in America, and is credited with inventing the modern detective story. You just can’t go wrong with Poe!”
“I love to read, but unfortunately, I don’t get to do so as often as I’d like,” Conravey said. “As a millennial, I obviously have a soft spot for the Harry Potter series. Anthologies that let you escape for a bit are amazing.
“I also love some Edgar Allen Poe, but I don’t know that I have a particular favorite author. I have some favorite books by great authors, but I unfortunately don’t always like some of their other works. For instance, I love ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury and ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ by Claudia Rankine,” Conravey explained.
Although their tastes vary, Conravey said, they often share books. “Jennie just finished ‘On the Come Up’ by Angie Thomas, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.“
They hope their Little Free Library will expand the conversation about books in the community. “We have a Facebook page for The Library Around The Corner, and would love to have online discussions with patrons, if that is something they want as well, of course,” Meetze said.
“Our Little Free Library doesn’t just belong to us, it belongs to the whole city,” said Conravey. “It is our hope that this Little Free Library will bring a little more joy, a little more connection, and a whole lot more books to our community.”
For those interested in joining them in establishing front-yard book exchange in their neighborhood, Conravey suggests a little time on the web. “Little Free Library makes it easy to get started. You can visit their website (https://littlefreelibrary.org) for great resources on how to plan for your library and whether to purchase or build when you’re ready.”