Airmen at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., have created a community-based resource to help educate children while bringing the community together.
Nine individuals, including sponsors who donated resources, contributed to the creation of the loaner library, located in the Ocotillo Manor neighborhood near the intersection of Walpai and Kiowa. The loaner library is a standalone, hand-constructed shelving unit that can house up to 50 books free for community members to exchange.
While Luke’s Library donated the initial stock of books, the loaner library is a resource located in family housing where military families are encouraged to exchange books at no cost.
“The Loaner Library is a nice addition to the neighborhood where families take walks during these [physical] distancing times,” said Miana Atkins, 56th Fighter Wing Staff Agency key spouse and Ocotillo Manor resident. “It will be a nice stopping point and something educational and fun for the kids to look forward to.”
Staff Sgt. Eric McKinley, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron real property specialist, constructed the loaner library and his wife Lauren McKinley, 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron management support specialist, painted the box. McKinley planned, engraved and built the design within 20 hours.
The mini-library houses two shelves, each holding around 25 books. Double doors protect the books from the environment.
“The tiny library is a fascinating concept that we have always found interesting,” said Eric. “By creating an inviting library, we are able to encourage young people and adults to take some time out of their day to read a new book and expand their minds.”
The library’s “attic” features a hand-painted scene.
“The neatest part about it is up top there is natural knot in the wood,” Eric explained. “I filled it with resin and my wife painted a nebula around it. I put a little runway scene with little Thunderbird airplane models. The back of the box also has an acrylic window that shows you clearly what’s inside.”
The McKinleys volunteered their time while InstantHandz covered the cost of the materials.
“Reading is fundamental,” said Adam Evans, InstantHandz chief strategy officer. “The most important thing is that children and adults enjoy it. Sometimes it’s nice to go back to a book and enjoy the adventures that await you there.”
The original loaner library is in front of a playground next to the Community Management Office.
While loaner libraries provides free books, it is still important for individuals who take and leave books to sanitize each one to help reduce the spread of Corona virus Disease 2019.
Eric said he hopes the library will encourage children to read more and enhance their reading and imagination abilities.
“It’s a way to leave this place a little bit better than when I got here,” said Eric. “We saw it as an opportunity to use our imagination and create something that people would be drawn to.”
While there are currently two Loaner Libraries on base, Evans hopes these will inspire the implementation of more in the future.
“I wish there was one on every block,” said Evans. “But I think this is a great starting point and hopefully it’ll encourage other people to do things for our community.”