Mini Libraries Outside Homes Help Neighbors Build Sense Of Community

Steve Marcus

Former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani poses with Gracie, a six-month-old bulldog mix, by a little free library in front of her home Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.

By cite">>Arleigh Rodgers (contact)

Chris G's Little Free Library

A little free library is shown in front of Chris Giunchiglianis home Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. The library is dedicated to the memory of her late husband Gary Gray. Launch slideshow »

In her neighborhood near downtown, Chris Giunchigliani welcomes visitors to her home with a miniature library — a rust-brown box with a glass-windowed front door, perched atop a plank of wood.

It resembles a mailbox, but rather than letters and packages, the library is stuffed with books, magazines and food such as jars of peanut butter, items community members can take home or replace for others to take.

Giunchigliani planted her mini library in memory of her late husband, Gary Gray, who died unexpectedly six years ago. She collaborated with apprentices with the Carpenter’s Union Training Center, which designs and builds such libraries using leftover materials. Now, several mini libraries stand tall around her neighborhood, the area near Crestwood Elementary School.

The proximity of this elementary school and Innovations International Charter School of Nevada invites children’s books and other items into the libraries, said Giunchigliani, the former Clark County commissioner and state lawmaker.

Sometimes she will fill the library with dollar-store educational items, like alphabet cards, or book donations from neighbors.

More often, though, the library stays packed because community members drop off their own items. Even things like calendars and eyeglasses make their way to the library for neighbors to pick through.

On the front of Giunchigliani’s box is a silver label that reads, in both English and Spanish, “Take a book, leave a book,” and, in English, “In memory of Gary Gray.”

The libraries have served as a key point for Giunchigliani to know her neighbors better, and vice versa, she said.

“To me, it’s about building a community,” Giunchigliani said. “(The libraries) allowed people to have a comfort level to reach out and actually know their neighbors.”

Mini libraries are not distinctive to Las Vegas, though many residents who reside near East Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway have placed them outside their homes for neighbors to take from for free.

Some residents will build the libraries themselves or order mini library fixtures through organizations like the nonprofit Little Free Library, where customers can purchase the libraries and accompanying materials.

Rachele and Levi Neshkoff built their own mini library at their home near downtown.

The teal blue box is etched with a quote — “We’re all just walking each other home” — from spiritual teacher Ram Das and drawings of a peace sign, yin and yang symbol, and Snoopy doing yoga on a lotus flower. Attached to the side of the supportive wood plank is an overflow container for food and books.

“I want them to know that I’m going to contribute to this community, not take from it,” Rachele Neshkoff said. “I think it’s really important for them to know that we’re here standing with them rather than, we’re here to change their neighborhood.”

Levi Neshkoff, a building contractor, built the box from scratch using old materials to give it its own individualistic shape. Compared with the Little Free Library’s boxes, the Neshkoffs’ is single-shelved and more rectangular.

“Philosophically, we come from a Buddhist standpoint, and so we want to give as much as we are receiving,” Levi Neshkoff said.

The free mini libraries fill a gap in the community for kids seeking reading materials without a library in walking distance, Giunchigliani said.

About three miles away, the East Las Vegas Library at 2851 E. Bonanza Road is the closest to the neighborhood and provides an array of free services — a multimedia room with DJ turntables, a sound booth, and technology to record and edit audio; a podcast studio; teen-only sections; and a 30-computer lab.

“It’s really rewarding to be able to provide services for people and then see them able to take advantage of that and experience some sort of personal transformation as a result of the work that we’re doing,” acting branch manager Tom Olson said.

Alexander Acosta De Leon, multimedia supervisor at the East Las Vegas Library, said that many of the students who come to the library interested in using the multimedia room — which he oversees — speak Spanish. Clark County comprises 31% Hispanic and Latino residents, according to Census data from August.

Originally from Guatemala, De Leon is bilingual and assists in bridging the gap between non-English speaking library goers, he said. “Being an immigrant, it’s my American dream,” De Leon said.

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