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Thanks to a middle schooler, there is plenty for Pittsfield residents to read this summer

BB’s Book Nook, a Little Free Library, opens to offer free books to the community.

Pittsfield — When most rising seventh graders were putting their school books away this month, Brielle Blessing surrounded herself with mountains of volumes assembled on the dining room table of her Pittsfield home. Since admiring a Little Free Library in Maine last August, she dreamed of bringing the idea to the area.

Little Free Libraries, the grassroots national program that offers small lending libraries in communities across the country, has grown in popularity since opening its first site in Wisconsin in 2009. Its motto, “Take a book. Share a book,” has led to enhanced book access in communities worldwide, as the nonprofit posted 150,00 registered libraries worldwide as of 2022. The idea incorporates a book-lending box that can be approached 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with patrons removing books and also adding books.

The Pittsfield community came out to support the work of Brielle Blessing (front, right) on the opening day of her Little Free Library, BB’s Book Nook. Also pictured, front row, seated: Scott Williams, Jodi Blessing. Photo courtesy of Jodi Blessing.

But carving out time to create the local “chapter” was an issue for Blessing, who helped out her grandparents in their floral shop during non-school hours. When the elders retired in January, she was free to plan, and earlier this month, her dream came to fruition as she ceremoniously dedicated her neighborhood Little Free Library—BB’s Book Nook—amid family and friends.

“I was trying to think, ‘Well, what is something fun that I could do to provide to the neighborhood once I don’t really have something else, like the flower shop, to do,” Blessing said. “I had been thinking about it for a good time. When the flower shop got sold in January, that’s when I started to really think about it and try to make it come to life.”

Brielle Blessing cuts the celebratory ribbon at the grand opening of her Little Free Library, BB’s Book Nook. Photo courtesy of Jodi Blessing.

Enlisting the aid of her stepfather Scott Williams, Blessing searched the internet for instructions on ordering the book structure, finding what they needed on Amazon. Once the two landed on an affordable option, they plotted out how to get books into the library, finding success at the local Goodwill shop with volumes suitable for all ages and interests. For Blessing, it meant forfeiting her Christmas money. “We picked out some books,” she said of her Goodwill shopping excursion. “We did a range from children to young adults, teenagers—all different range of books.”

Williams estimated the Goodwill haul was about 20 to 25 books, and he and Blessing created the perfect spot for the project at the corner of Bartlett Avenue and Broad Street, including a small patio and reading bench.

“Our neighbors were very gracious, and it looks like a few other patrons have dropped off books just today,” said Jodi Blessing, Brielle Blessing’s mother, of the June 23 grand opening. “It was a very fun bonding experience for both [Brielle Blessing and Williams], and I’m proud of her for having the insight and for Scott for helping her bring it to life.”

However, the young entrepreneur isn’t stopping her community quest here, and an expanded book box may be in the works. In only a day, word got out about BB’s Book Nook and the little box has been opening and closing almost nonstop.

“We did talk about an expansion,” Brielle Blessing said. “Even though it’s only been open to the public for 24 hours, I’ve seen so many people walking through, looking. I’ve seen one person sit down [on the bench]. I’ve seen people take books; I’ve seen people replace them. It’s just been a great experience.”

BB’s Book Nook, a Little Free Library, offers patrons free books at Bartlett Avenue and Broad Street in Pittsfield. Photo courtesy of Jodi Blessing.

Jodi Blessing said she watched a visitor to the library drop off an entire series of Harry Potter novels to the site while she added local magazines. If the project continues to grow, Williams said he and Brielle Blessing will upsize to a larger library box and donate the current structure to a community that could use the project.

A fan of writing and reading, the straight-A student is hoping that more than just pages are consumed from the library. “I’m loving that I’m already seeing some interactions with people coming and visiting the library,” Brielle Blessing said. “I think it’s really going to help the neighbors bond over books and reading.”

With their hearty local contributions, she said her neighbors “obviously love to read” and may run into each other at the community’s new library, becoming friends in the process.

According to the Little Free Library website, 72 percent of volunteer stewards have met more neighbors because of their Little Free Library, and 98 percent of people say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place because of a Little Free Library. The website shows BB’s Book Nook is only the second Little Free Library station in Pittsfield.

BB’s Book Nook is accepting donations, and Jodi Blessing is encouraging local residents to partake in the project as she looks forward to seeing her daughter manage the endeavor.

Although the library is fully stocked now, there is no requirement that patrons return books. “I hope if they love a book so much, they take it and don’t give it back, or I’m hoping that they love a book so much they want to donate another book,” Brielle Blessing said. “I’m just hoping that it will fit their needs.”

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