The Alpha Alpha Alpha Chapter at Saint Leo University is proud to announce the success of it’s little library project, made possible through the Sigma Tau Delta Chapter Project Grant. Working with faculty on campus we built an outdoor library for our campus. The library operates on a “take a book, leave a book” basis, and several students have already made donations to the library. We are confident that the library will continue to bring in students from around the campus throughout the upcoming semesters, and that its existence will create a renewed interest in reading for our student body.
The project began as an assignment for class. Alexandra Masso, Raymond Urbaniack, and myself, Joshua Leles, were tasked with doing something small to help their community by their professor and Chapter Advisor Allyson Marino. The three students discovered the grant, and decided to use it as an opportunity to do something larger. The idea began to form; why not build something permanent that would bring in a sense of community for our campus? They also learned about a project being undertaken by the faculty, a memorial bench for the late Dr. Kurt Wilt. Wilt had previously been an Advisor to our chapter, and though he passed before any of us really got to know him his presence is felt in everything our English department undertakes. We didn’t want him to only be remembered by the faculty, we wanted him to be honored by the student body as well. When professor Gianna Russo mentioned to me that she and Wilt had always dreamed of putting an outdoor library on campus the project went from a concept to something that simply had to happen. We worked hard on creating something he would have been proud of, and the outdoor library now sits proudly by his bench.
Another important aspect of the library came from the class the project was originally for: Literature and the Environment. We wanted to theme our original donations to the library with books having to do with climate change. If this library was going to be a collection of essentially book recommendations from our community than we wanted to start that collection with something meaningful in our current political situation. We also took a lot of time and care ensuring that materials were as environmentally friendly as they could be. For example, we used recycled wood in its construction. It was a difficult balancing act to make something that would cause the smallest environmental impact possible while also being sturdy enough to hold up against Florida’s inclement weather, and the real test may come when hurricane season hits.
The largest challenge in this project was in the actual construction. It was something I unfortunately wasn’t able to be a part of. As President of the chapter I was extremely busy raising money to send our students to the international convention. Raymond took over the actual construction, and did a fantastic job getting the library ready to put in the ground. There are still some things we want to add: A magnetic lock to keep the door closed in the event of windy weather for example. But with all three of the original students who worked on the project graduating, this is something the next generation of students will have to work on. Since Raymond was our Vice President we decided that future Vice Presidents would take care of maintaining the library and improving it. Rachel Watson is already beginning the project with gusto. So in the end we ended up creating an opportunity for future generations of students to grow by working with the faculty on the improvement of the library. I am sure that with each generation of creative students the outdoor library will continue to evolve, and that through their efforts it will become more than we could have imagined it being.
For any chapter wishing to emulate what we did, make sure you understand that it can’t be a solo venture. At the very least the chapter will have to work closely with the groundskeepers at the school and follow any restrictions they put on you. Generally you’ll have to do more than that. There will be multiple departments to meet with, approvals to gain, and concerns to hear out. Don’t be afraid to let the project evolve, but also don’t be afraid to scale back when necessary. Any committed chapter can make this happen, just make sure that the chapter is ready to fully commit a lot of time and energy. You’re constructing something on campus, it’s not going to be easy. But it will be a wonderful experience and a strong legacy for Sigma Tau Delta to have at your campus, just as it was here.
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