An oasis for developing readers, community in Dayton's Bluff.

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2011 - 1:52 PM

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Pedro Garcia, 14, built the Little Free Library box that stands outside Sage Holben’s St. Paul home.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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The Dayton's Bluff neighborhood kids warned Sage Holben not to put a Little Free Library on the corner by the old Victorian where she rents a second-floor apartment.

They said, "'It's going to be a wreck; people will destroy it,'" Holben recalled while sitting on her wraparound porch last week. "The kids were concerned. Kids don't always see there's hope ahead."

Holben, a Metropolitan State University library technician who walks the two blocks to work, went ahead. She recruited 14-year-old neighbor Pedro Garcia to build the house on a weekend trip to Little Free Library headquarters in Hudson, Wis.

Garcia spent 12 hours one Saturday building the library with tutelage from Little Free Library construction maestro Todd Bol. The industrious teenager did the measuring, cutting and building. He and Holben sought a historical feel for the mini-house to fit the neighborhood.

The little structure went up last week, three days before a 24-year-old man was shot and killed on the same corner. Holben left work early when she heard of the shooting to offer free hugs, coffee and homemade chili from her porch.

The day after the crime, more than 20 books of various genres, from Jodi Picoult to "Seabiscuit" to "Baby-sitters Club No. 30," sat ready for swapping.

The Dayton's Bluff neighborhood, on a hill overlooking the State Capitol, has lovingly restored Victorians mixed with modest, faded and rundown houses and apartments.

"Many of the kids here come from families where there isn't a lot of reading," Holben said.

Kate Leotta lives across the street from Holben with her preschool son, Murphy. They were early users of the library.

"It's a great way to teach little ones about donating, sharing, being responsible for something in the community," Leotta said.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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