GTPulse: Mini Wheelhouse Building Will Be Traverse City’s Newest Little Free Library

“One of the things I really miss out of all of this is the library,” Ty Schmidt said. The founder of local bike nonprofit Norte has been spending just as much time outdoors in the community as ever and has still been finding ways to incorporate bikes, community, and a healthy outdoor lifestyle in a new, socially responsible way.

Little Free Library is the stuff my childhood dreams would have been made of. The whimsical idea started in 2009 in Wisconsin when a man named Todd H. Bol designed a miniature one-room schoolhouse style library and community members delighted in using it. The idea was simple; take a book, leave a book. The libraries function as an easy and accessible way for anyone to find something to read. He gave away 30 more as word and excitement about the libraries grew throughout the state. Today there are more than 100,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 108 countries.

Little Free Library is now registered as a nonprofit. The Grand Traverse region has 30 registered libraries, and they’re about to gain another. Proud Norte dad and friend of the bike club, Colin Bushong, from CMB Construction, has just made a to-scale building of the historic Wheelhouse that houses Norte’s kids’ programs, the kids’ bike library and so much more. The shrunken and book-filled version of it is going to be a Little Free Library as unique as it is large.

“This thing is to-scale, gorgeous. It’s amazing how it’s an authentic replica of the Wheelhouse.”

Throughout quarantine, getting outside has been a way to stay active and find some relief from the same indoor views every day. Ty has spent a lot of this outdoor time at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center.

“Having these Little Free Libraries has been a bit of a saving grace. I miss the library, I put on social media that the civic center needs a Little Free Library. The park is still full of people walking. It’s kind of like our Central Park. How cool would it be to have a trailside Little Free Library?”

Very cool. So cool that Colin decided that he would build one, something Ty never would have thought about when Norte took over the building.

“When I walked in there in ‘18 it had been shuttered for a long time, it was gross. It took a while to see the beauty in it. But, it’s one of the reasons Norte has grown so quickly in the past few years. It’s given us stability in having a place to host all of these programs.”

The Wheelhouse Little Free Library is definitely bigger than the classic, one-room schoolhouse style libraries at roughly 5-foot long. 

“It’s going to have 2 doors, so you can use either side of it. It’s going to be the cream of the crop.”

It took around 50 hours to construct the library and is currently getting painted by Norte super mom Susan Arnold. Orange, of course. It will be installed sometime in June and Ty hopes it will be a source of happiness and pride not just for Norte, but for the community as a whole.

“I am curious to see if we can use it for other things. During the early lockdown the State Theatres kind of turned into a little free pantry. Maybe we could do something like that with helmets, or stuff like that. I don’t know what the inside will look like, but this is one positive thing that has come out of the pandemic.”

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Categories: GTPulse