Interior Design students create little neighborhood libraries for child literacy

Fresno City Council President Tyler Maxwell holds a press conference announcing his “On the Same Page Campaign" at University Park in Central Fresno.

Fresno City Council President, Tyler Maxwell (District 4), watched intently as first-year design students presented their Little Library projects. The libraries resemble oversized birdhouses, each with a large hinged front door to protect the books. While the little libraries all have the same form, each was handbuilt and painted by students with artwork influenced by their favorite childhood books. 

“I was inspired by an educational book called, ‘There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System’  by Tish Rabe,” said Kaylee Almaraz, graphic design major. “At some point, everyone has had a wild imagination, and I wanted to represent every adult and kid by capturing the inner kid that lives inside of us.”

“I’m completely blown away. Truly these are extremely beautiful,” Maxwell told the students after their presentations.

He then presented each student with a certificate signed by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and all the members of the Fresno City Council.

The next day, several students and their little libraries joined Councilmember Maxwell at University Park in Central Fresno to launch his “On the Same Page Campaign.” His stated goal is that every child in his district is no more than a five-minute walk to free books. 

“We will accomplish this by installing at least one free neighborhood library in every single District Four neighborhood,” said Maxwell. “A library for every neighborhood, a book for every child.”

He also announced a corresponding book drive to stock the libraries with drop-off locations around the city, including Fresno State in the old and new Student Unions and at Conley Art Gallery. Those books will then be distributed by volunteer librarians assigned to each little library.

Fresno City Council President Tyler Maxwell holds a press conference announcing his “On the Same Page Campaign" at University Park in Central Fresno.
Fresno City Council President Tyler Maxwell holds a press conference announcing his “On the Same Page Campaign” at University Park in Central Fresno.

The endeavor started after Maxwell approached Holly Sowles, associate professor of interior design and chair of the Department of Art, Design, and Art History, to see if art students would be interested in helping with the project. Sowles felt the project would be perfect for interior design students.

“We do three-dimensional things in houses,” Sowles said. “They had to really approach this like a construction project. We had to find the right materials and put on the roof. That’s why it was important for the interior designers.”

The Interior Design ID43 class was assigned the four-week project as part of their coursework.

“By early April, we painted salient coats over neighborhood libraries and by mid-April, we were able to finally install the roof’s shingles,” said Almaraz. “Overall, this was a project that took a lot of planning and prepping, but in the end, I enjoyed being a part of this project that promotes literature.”

Instructor Glenn Terpstra said the little libraries had to be durable and keep books safe from the elements through the heat of the summer and winter storms for at least ten years.

“Quality was the first thing that we started with,” said Terpstra. “I think the students did an incredible job pushing that through to the very end.”

On her library, Almaraz included a quote from John Muir that perhaps sums up the neighborhood library concept:

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.”

Those little libraries will now be installed in neighborhoods around Fresno, inspiring future Bulldogs through art, design and literature – with a sprinkle of imagination. 

“There are endless possibilities to our story,” Almaraz said. “If you can imagine it, you can live it.”

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Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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