Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor

Address: 2935 Birch Hollow Drive

Steward: JCC of Greater Ann Arbor

Rachel Pastiva: When did you put up your Little Free Library and what inspired you to create one?

Michelle Paris: Our library was built in memory of a student of ours that unexpectedly passed away from a tragic accident on October 1, 2014. Her name was Anna Schwalb. One of her great loves in her short life was reading and books. She used to spend much of her time here at school listening to and reading stories. Our Little Free Library was a dream of one of her teachers, Tonya Backstrom, who helped to plan, build and dedicate Anna’s Little Free Library. Our library was dedicated on May 4, 2016.

Rachel: Did you get your library from Little Free Library or build it?

Michelle: We built our Little Free Library with the help of Rob Backstrom, husband of Tonya who was Anna’s teacher, and with the help of his company he worked for at the time, Leon Speakers of Ann Arbor. Leon Speakers is owned by a parent that was a classmate of Anna’s. It was designed with children in mind when many of the children discovered that some of the Little Free Libraries weren’t big enough to hold a children’s book that is larger than a normal adult hardcover book. 

Rachel: What impact on your community have you hoped to make by putting up a Little Free Library?

Michelle: Our hope for our library was that children could come to the library and always find books they were comfortable reading ranging from picture books, to informational books to books for young adults. The library is located on the grounds of the Jewish Community Center which houses two schools, one early childhood and one elementary. These children along with many neighborhood children use the library frequently.  

Rachel:  What has the response been to the library?

Michelle: The response has been wonderful. Children use the library every day. Sometimes you will find neighborhood children sitting on the sidewalk in front of the library, just reading book after book. We also see parents drive up and the children hop out of the car to find a book. Children from the schools also visit the library on a consistent basis. 

Rachel: Are there specific age groups or subject matter that your library collection is geared towards?

Michelle: We definitely have geared our library towards children. It is quite large to house large children’s books. We try to make sure it is stocked with a variety of books including picture books and chapter books for young readers.  

Michelle Paris is the Head Teacher at the Early Childhood Center of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor.

Featured in January 2018 newsletter