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Senior hopes sharing books will strengthen community connections

Savannah Steet ’23 / Credit: Kayla Patterson ’23

Last updated December 7, 2022

By Furman News

If everything goes according to plan for Savannah Steet ’23, a new library will be up and running on Furman’s campus in February 2023.

It shouldn’t be too hard to tell the new library apart from the James B. Duke Library, though. It will be along the path by Furman Lake near the Dining Hall patio, not in the center of campus. At about 3 square feet, it will be considerably smaller than the Duke Library, and it won’t hold anything close to 360,000 volumes. But visitors walking by the new Little Free Library can take any book they want for as long as they wish – and Steet hopes they will return to add more books there for others to enjoy.

Although a Little Free Library – a small pole-mounted wooden box with a slanted roof and a clear door – is usually found in a residential neighborhood or outside a small business like the Swamp Rabbit Café, a book-sharing box makes perfect sense for the Furman community, Steet said.

“Furman at its best is a place of sharing ideas and exchanging things with the greater community,” said the sustainability science major. “The campus is a community space as much as it is a student space. Furman should be really welcoming to visitors, and I want to contribute in some way to making that a campus value.”

Sharing books can strengthen community connections, said Steet.

“The biggest difference lies in the exchange,” she said. “When you go to the library, you get a book, then you give it back. You have experienced that book in a vacuum, as an isolated experience. But when you get a book from a Little Free Library, it’s a book that someone in the campus community has specifically put in there wanting you to read it.”

And once you’ve read it, the cycle continues: “Ideally, you do the same thing,” said Steet. “You either leave a book that you’ve read, or you give that book back. It’s that exchange of ideas, the relationship between people through books, that makes it special.”

After winning a grant from the Furman Humanities Center and securing the help of Furman Facility Services for site selection and installation, Steet placed her order from the Little Free Library organization, which builds the libraries and sends them out to a global network of volunteers. The nonprofit uses sales proceeds to fund other libraries in underserved areas in 100 different countries.

Furman’s Little Free Library will arrive unpainted, so the Humanities Center is hosting a design contest to decorate it (email for more information).

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what people on campus can come up with,” Steet said.

The senior is hoping that the library will have a diverse collection, including books by local authors and stories celebrating marginalized communities. While she will be helped by a Diversity and Inclusion Mini-Grant from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Steet is confident she won’t be the only one adding inventory.

“I am definitely confident that the campus community will come together to stock this library,” she said. “I really envision it being very self-sustaining. People want to participate in it.”

Along with the exchange of ideas found in the books it holds, Steet expects the Little Free Library to change some preconceived ideas about her school.

“Especially for community members who might feel like they are not as welcome on campus as they would like to be,” she said. “I would like for them to feel like there’s something that is as much for them as it is for everyone else. A Little Free Library is a small way to say that we are an inclusive space. We want community members to engage with our campus and with our students, because that’s what makes Furman special.”

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