NORWALK — Children taking a break from the playground or athletic field may soon be able to relax in a park clubhouse and read or borrow a book free of charge.
The City Council Feb. 18 approved the plan of Norwalk resident Keith Aguilar of Boy Scout Troop 438 to build and donate “little free libraries” at three city sites as part of his efforts to earn his Eagle Scout Badge.
The vote was 5-0, with Mayor Margarita Rios adding “thank you for choosing Norwalk.”
Proposed sites are Holifield Park, 12500 Excelsior Drive; Hermosillo Park, 11959 162ndSt.; and the inside court of the Cultural Arts Center, 1300 Clarkdale Ave.
“Each of these locations are visited by many children on a regular basis,” City Clerk Theresa Devoy said in a report to the council. “Keith contacted the principals of the schools nearby and city recreation regarding maintaining the book stock should there be a need.”
Aguilar, 17, a student at La Mirada High School, told the council he wanted to help his community, and noted that he and his brother often walked to one of the parks.
Aguilar said he would build the structures that would each hold about 30 books for children from kindergarten through fifth grade on Feb. 22 and 23.
He was uncertain when they would be opened at the sites but predicted that would happen in March.
The books and materials will be purchased from the Little Free Libraries organization at a cost of $200 to $300 each library, said his mother, Amanda Alvarez.
She said family and friends sought donations to help fund the project.
Bill Kearns, the city’s parks and recreation director, said children would be allowed to take home a book to read but would be asked to return it.
If a book is not returned, donations will be sought to restock, Kearns added.
“The Little Free Libraries program was created in 2009 to inspire reading and make books more available to the public through book sharing throughout communities,” Devoy said in her report.
The Little Free Library organization indicates that there are over 90,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide, with one existing in Norwalk. Devoy said that was donated to Sanchez Elementary School by Chick-fil-a during the restaurant’s grand opening in Norwalk.
As part of the Eagle Scout process, scouts must plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, school or community. A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, his scoutmaster and unit committee, and the local scout council or district before starting, Devoy said.
Aguilar has been discussing locations and plans with city staff and fundraising for the libraries for p several months. The city would maintain the little library structures, Devoy said.
City Engineer Glen Kau has reviewed the plans for the little libraries and suggested a few improvements to help ensure their stability.
“Once built, local artists selected by the city will paint a design on each box and then the Public Services staff will apply a graffiti coating over the paint and assist with the installation of the libraries,” Devoy said in her report.
In an unrelated park matter, the council formally received a grant of $300,000 from the office of county Supervisor Janice Hahn for a playground at Holifield Park.
Kearns said the total cost of the new playground is uncertain pending review of various proposals. He said the council is expected to act on the project in March.
The contract period for the agreement with the county is through Dec. 31.
The council’s unanimous action Feb. 18 authorized City Manager Jesus Gomez to execute any agreements and or amendments and documentation required by the county on behalf of the city in forms approved by the city attorney, a staff report said.
By Arnold Adler