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Originally published in the Observer Today, June 26th, 2021

New little library established at Wheelock

Encouraging words

On their last day of school for the year, the students of Wheelock Primary School had a special dedication, courtesy of the Dunkirk-Fredonia Rotary Club. Now located at the playground right outside the school is a do-it-yourself library for anyone in the community to enjoy.

“Our thing has always been health and environment,” said Sheila Starkey Hahn, who organized the placement at Wheelock school. “We have these pillars. We’ve just added literacy as one of our pillars. Every Rotary club is supposed to put up a free library. Amy Piper, who is the director of Wheelock, OK’d this location and here we are.”

The library is a small wooden box, mounted on a post, and they can be found all around Chautauqua County and the United States as a whole. They are filled with a small selection of books, with the belief being that anyone can either take a book they’re interested in reading or drop one off for other people to enjoy. A similar do-it-yourself library will be added somewhere in Dunkirk sometime this fall, but the exact location is still being worked out by the Dunkirk City Council.

The initial ideas for the location of Wheelock’s lending library originally included a spot-on Temple Street or at Barker Commons. Upon further consideration, the lending library being placed there would have caused a congestion of books in the location, as it would have joined Darwin Barker Library and the Literacy Volunteers Bookstore. Instead, the playground was chosen because it is still easily accessible, while getting some bit of distance between the other book hubs.

“That could have been the book hub of Fredonia,” Starkey Hahn said. “So even if it was after hours, anyone could have gotten a book. But we decided that that was maybe too many books. All year round, there are kids playing at this playground, and it has a bench and shade from the trees. It’s visible from the street so once people know it’s there, they can pull over to drop it off. This seemed like the perfect location.”

Starkey Hahn at first had purchased the library to put in her own front yard, before literacy became a rotary pillar. But after deciding that her house wasn’t the ideal location, she held onto the structure until the right opportunity came up.

“My kids were laughing at me when I bought it because I live on a dead end,” said Starkey Hahn. “But I loved the concept and the community feel. When it came up on one of our weekly calls for Rotary that literacy was a new mission, I had it in my garage. All we needed to do was find a place.”

The Rotary had several goals for this year, including donating to blood banks, Pedal for Polio, the Great Lakes Watershed cleanup, with the libraries being a late addition. Fredonia Mayor Doug Essek was on hand at the dedication and spoke about the importance of having the little free library on the Wheelock Campus.

“Having access to books is essential,” Essek said. “To have the little free library here provides that opportunity to all regardless. I applaud the Dunkirk-Fredonia Rotary for their efforts in providing this to the community.”

The Dunkirk-Fredonia Rotary Club consists of neighbors and community leaders uniting for a common good and taking on the most pressing challenges facing the community and the world. Rotary International links 1.2 million members on six continents. Rotary’s Areas of Focus include promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and protecting the environment. The Little Free Library initiative advances the Rotary International goal of combating illiteracy.

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"Serve to Change Lives" was the Rotary International theme for July 1st, 2021 through June 30th, 2022 - the Rotary Club of Dunkirk-Fredonia did just that all throughout the Rotary Year, under the immense leadership and guidance of President Diane Hannum.  We will gather together on Thursday, July 7th at 4:30 PM at Point Gratiot to honor President Diane, and all of her accomplishments as we prepare to "Imagine Rotary" under the leadership of incoming President, Melanie Witkowski. Being a Rotarian is a privilege like no other, we put others'  needs before our own, and change lives and communities each and every day.  
Your local Rotary Serves to Change Lives, find out what is next on their agenda.  Join in person on Thursday, June 23rd, or request a Zoom link!  Guest Speaker Director of Planning & Development, Vince DeJoy - City of Dunkirk. 
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