November 28, 2021

Homer woman sets up free library for children on her lawn

‘It’s like an escape’

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cathleen Calale VanOrden shows the books Saturday inside the free library outside of her Homer home.

Like many people, Cathleen Calale VanOrden had a large collection of books lying around her house, thanks in part from raising her four children.

As a second-grade reading support teaching assistant at Homer Intermediate School, she thought it would help to donate some of her books to the school.

“I kept saying to teachers, ‘I have all these books at home, let me bring them in for kids to keep,’” she said.

And then the school because of coronavirus. Calale VanOrden, though, was determined to make sure that kids have access to books, so she created a miniature free library on her lawn on Holley Drive.

The library, made from old storm windows, old shelves and old shutters, was built and put up by Calale VanOrden’s husband, David VanOrden , Calale VanOrden said. Calale VanOrden painted the library.

“It’s gone over really well,” she said. Around 100 items, including books, DVDs and audiobooks, have been added to the library since March 21.

Calale VanOrden said that numerous children have visited and taken an item from the library and trash haulers have snapped pictures as well.

She hasn’t forgotten cleaning etiquette in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as Lysol wipes are available to disinfect items, she said.

Her neighbor, Linda Scofield, said the library provided a good break for children stuck at home.

“We thought maybe this was good for them” to visit in theirfree time, she said. Scofield became interested in the library when she saw it was being put up and donated books of her own, about 50 by Friday afternoon.

In the worrisome times of the coronavirus, Scofield said that by having books provided by the library, children will be able to find a little joy through reading.

“It’s like an escape,” she said. “I think it just helps you especially when the news is very depressing.”

Calale VanOrden said she wasn’t sure what future plans lay for the library, but it could be expanded if needed.

She hopes that a sign posted inside the library that reads, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are” resonates with people.

“I just think it’s really important for kids to have a book in their hand and see the print and the text and use their imagination,” she said.