Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

Eaton Rapids girl scouts from Troop 30459 built three ‘Little Libraries’ in Eaton Rapids about five years ago. Since then, the structures have suffered some vandalism. But the vandalism has provided a learning opportunity for the original builders.
Troop co-leaders, Helen Broom and Susan Kinaitis, said the libraries are located at G.A.R. Island Park, at the Playground of Dreams and McArthur River Park. Books for all ages are put in the libraries, and anyone is welcome to take a book or leave a book. Books are available 24/7, and both Broom and Kinaitis are hopeful they help encourage a love of reading.
There are currently only six girls, all between 10 and 12 years old, in the troop. As they get older, their time is drawn away by sports and other school activities, their leaders explained. When the libraries project started, the troop had more than 20 members. Broom said the scouts designed and built the libraries, along with getting all the necessary approval from the city for their placement.
Since going up, the libraries have been vandalized several times. In June of this year, doors were broken off, and books were tossed in the river.
Kinaitis said the girls were upset about the vandalization “for a minute,” but then took it well.
She said some were actually excited about what the destruction meant for them, as they would get to use power tools again to do the needed repairs. They are currently working on repairing the damage and making the construction sturdier.
“Many adults don’t know how to use a drill, or consider it a ‘guy thing,’” Broom said. “We want people to know that girls can do anything and that girl scouting isn’t just about girl stuff.
“It can be about tools, camping, archery, technology and more.”
Beyond learning how to use power tools, the leaders felt the incident helped the girls work on developing patience, acceptance, thinking skills, measuring, safety and wood cutting. The woodworking skills carry over to the troop’s orchard project at Biggs Park, Kinaitis said, where they are building a bench. The skills also help with work being done at Oak Ridge Park to create a nature trail made of hand-milled planks.
First United Methodist Church in Eaton Rapids (FUMER) has provided space for the troop to store the donated books for many years. Thus, replacing the damaged books is not a problem, Broom explained.
“Don’t worry, we have a room full of books at the ready to replace them.”
The part that hurts the most, Broom said, is the loss of the plaque on the library door. The Little Library Association requires that one of their plaques be on each library, at the cost of $35 each. While the scouts sell a lot of cookies each year, the profit on them is only 80 cents per box. It takes a lot of cookies sold to replace a plaque, and the troop would welcome help to replace the plaques.
For other instances of damage to the libraries in the past, members of the community stepped up to do repairs. Broom said Rob South and his daughter, Leah, replaced a library door, as did Chad Dalke.
“We love to see the community get involved with the libraries.”
For more information, visit the Eaton Rapids Little Free Libraries Facebook page.