McClatchy High School seniors Allison Yamamoto and JasMin Khoe needed to come up with an idea for their senior project. As they both had a far-reaching love books and libraries, they decided to do a project to promote literacy.
Yamamoto is a member of the Teen Advisory Board (TAB) for Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library, while Khoe was on the TAB of the Belle Cooledge Library and for the past year has sat on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Sacramento Public Library.
At first, they set their senior project as a book drive at McClatchy. Yamamoto says they conducted the drive by placing donation boxes in classrooms at the school and by working with academic groups that focused on community service. Through this effort, they were able to collect more than 600 books.
“My goal was around 500 (books) … I was really happy when I found out there was over 600 — it was a great surprise,” Khoe says.
Books for Rwanda
With the books collected, Yamamoto and Khoe decided to send 270 of the books to an orphanage in Rwanda through an organization called Streets Ahead Children’s Center Association (SACCA).
Khoe was introduced to SACCA when she traveled there last summer to help build a school. “I met a lot of kids in Rwanda and so I was really inspired to do something for them,” she explains. “I wanted to send them some materials over, and then I thought books — just to promote literacy would be really great.”
Khoe says SACCA works to take kids — ranging from infants to teens — off the streets in Rwanda to giving them food, clothing, and shelter, and helping them with education. “I was really inspired by that organization and what they do, so that’s where we sent the books,” she adds.
Now with still books to use from their book drive, Yamamoto says they began to look for an opportunity to help promote literacy in their own community. Then they heard about a recent movement where community members build small libraries, which look like oversized birdhouses, and set them up in a public area such as outside a home or in a park. The library is stocked with books, which anyone can take. Once you read it, you can return it. Or if you want to keep it, community members are urged to replace it with another book.
Yamamoto says they decided to built similar libraries on their own they could stock with the remainder of the books they had collected and called them Bound Together libraries. “JasMin and I are really close friends and the whole purpose of the project is to bring the community together, so we call them Bound Together libraries,” she explains.
The only problem was the girls now needed help in actually building the libraries. For that, they turned to Khoe family friend and East Sacramento resident Greg Stults, who in addition to being a past teacher at Crocker Riverside Elementary has experience in construction and woodworking.
Stults says he met with Yamamoto and Khoe to design the two libraries they would be building. Then after purchasing necessary hardware and using scrap wood and tools he had, he guided the girls in constructing their libraries. He says it took them about 10 hours to build both libraries.
“I wanted them to do as much of it as possible,” he says. “I wanted them to learn how to use the table saw, bandsaw, nailgun — I would demonstrate and make sure they were safe. They did the majority of the work themselves, so they learned a lot about measuring and how to use the tools.”
Yamamoto says she learned a lot from Stults when it came to how to use the different tools. “I learned a lot about the whole mechanics and how much thought you really have to put into constructing something,” she adds. “It was just really fascinating.”
“First Two of Many”
On May 2, Yamamoto and Khoe, along with community members, held the grand opening of their first Bound Together Library on Arabella Way in the Pocket area. The second library is expected to be placed in Curtis Park by the end of May.
Yamamoto hopes that more students and community members will take up the charge to build Bound Together libraries and place them in other areas of Sacramento. She says there are other students at McClatchy, as well as students at John F. Kennedy High School already talking about building their own libraries. “Hopefully this is just the first two of many,” she adds.
According to Kathi Windheim, president of the Pocket-Greenhaven Friends of the Library, the Friends has set aside $500 to reimburse students and have more built, and Eagle Scout Jonathan Louie plans to build one.
To help community members learn more about Bound Together libraries, Yamamoto and Khoe will be offering a workshop on Wednesday, June 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library. “We’ll be there presenting what it is, how they can use it and how they can build their own,” she explains.