News & Events

A Little Library with a Big Mission

02/23/15 at 07:42 AM by Jillian Hanes

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  ~ Anne Frank 

These words from a teenage girl are the inspiration for many world changers, including 17 year old, Kristen Norton, a junior at Boise’s Sage International School.  This high schooler recently decided to start making her own impact on the world by creating an inexpensive way to help Neighborhood Housing Services’ low-income residents easily access books and build their reading skills.  She calls it the Little Library.

When faced with a community service requirement for graduation, Norton thought of the mini libraries she had seen in cities like Seattle and Portland and began researching their process.  Norton read books on the topic, volunteered at the local public library to discover which mobile book programs were ineffective, and even spoke to a local builder of a similar project. 

Throughout her research, she began to understand just how important literacy is in a person’s life, and how effective community and peer to peer learning can be in helping them succeed.  Did you know that “61% of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes, and that “one out of six children who do not read at age level by the end of third grade will not graduate from high school?”  Norton found statistics like these in her research, and realized that she could make a positive impact in people’s lives by providing easier access to books in low-income communities.  However, she needed to find a place to implement her Little Library.

Norton’s mother volunteered for NHS’ Paint The Town™ last year, and connected with Nancy Smith, a staff member who coordinated with our Resident Services team to determine a good installation site for the library. They eventually decided on NHS’ Davis Park Apartments – a low-income complex where some educational and empowering Resident Services programs were already in place.  Norton determined that an encouraging environment, like this, with minimal resources was the ideal spot to build a library.

The young woman was told that it would cost $50 for the materials, not including books. Using entrepreneurial skills, she raised the funds with her family by wrapping gifts at the Winter Farmers Market.  Norton secured most of the materials from donations through family and community partners, including a non profit home improvement store.  Not only did this teenager raise her own funds, she was able to get her library officially chartered for just $35!

Her year-long project is complete, yet Norton is dedicated to its continued success.  She intends to routinely stop by to check on it, as well as encourage incoming students to maintain it. Norton also plans to build a second little library – possibly at another NHS apartment community, Northwest Pointe. 

Though she hasn’t even reached adulthood, Norton understands how important it is for everyone to become educated.  Bringing books into the apartment community encourages a learning culture among the residents, which in turn promotes stability in the Home and neighborhood.  NHS is excited to partner with Norton on this project that coincides with our mission to build stronger communities. It is indeed a wonderful thing to see such a driven and compassionate young woman improving part of the world through her Little Library.

For more information on the Little Library project or to collaborate in another way with Neighborhood Housing Services’ Resident Services programs, contact Emily Pohlman at 258-6229 or

Resource: Home Matters® graphic found at

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