CSB Office of Sustainability starts free library in St. Joseph

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September 30, 2014

By Annie Dittberner '17

Alex Chocholousek (standing) from the CSB Sustainability Office works with George Hemmesch (white shirt) and Larry Christen of CSB Facilities Management to install the new Free Library.

CSB Director of Sustainability Judy Purman places donated books on the shelves of the Free Library.

There are very few free things in life. However, the College of Saint Benedict Office of Sustainability is providing the city of St. Joseph with one more free option. 

On Sept. 25, the office revealed its latest project to the city — a free library. 

While nearly all libraries are free, the structure of this one is a little different.

"Basically, it's a public service to the residents of St. Joseph and CSB and SJU students, faculty and staff," Director of Sustainability Judy Purman said of the library, which is located on the wall of the Minnesota Street Market in downtown St. Joseph. "It's a way to make books available to anybody who wants them." 

Because the library operates through donations from visitors, anyone may stop by, pick up a book and bring back the book they borrowed or another book to share. 

The free library is modeled after littefreelibrary.org, an organization that started in 2009 to promote reading around the world through the construction of free book exchanges. Because it is a network of registered free libraries, they have specific criteria and size. The CSB Office of Sustainability is doing this on its own. 

The project is a collaborative one between the CSB Office of Sustainability, the CSB Senate, Saint John's Abbey Woodworking and the Minnesota Street Market. It was built by Matthew Palmquist of the Benedictine Volunteer Corps, and is made from scrap wood and recovered materials.

"The whole idea of it is that the books that are in the free library are always changing," Purman said. "It should be self-perpetuating in terms of what is actually in the library." 

The majority of free libraries are located in the Twin Cities. 

"On the front it says, 'Take a Book, Return a Book,' " Purman said. "There will be adult books on one shelf and children stories on the other shelf. It reaches out to a population of anybody." 

According to Purman, the office has not made any plans to construct additional libraries in the area. "Right now, our goal for this library is for people to use it and enjoy it," she said. 

"What we're trying to do with this project is what we do with all of our projects," Purman said. "We wanted to incorporate the three pillars of sustainability — environment, economics and social justice."