Former Farragut Intermediate School secretary Susan Royster just won’t leave education behind her.
An idea to offer a miniature library in her Brixworth neighborhood now is a reality, and Royster — who logged 24 years with Knox County Schools, the last 16 at FIS — said the project “is still the school coming out in me.”
She got the idea about two months ago while walking in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood with a friend, and spotted a small structure in the style of a birdhouse designed for book storage and lending.
“They had one, and I thought it was so cute, and there was no reason we couldn’t have one, too,” she said.
The Sequoyah Hills version was located along a roadway and was convenient for walkers, which also was a draw for Royster.
“It’s a great way to promote reading,” she said, noting she also is a “huge” reader herself and had a large collection of about 50 books she personally could share.
“I’ll never read them again,” she said. “It’s like a movie you have seen before — you know what happens and you (probably) aren’t going to watch it again.”
After pondering the idea, Royster approached the Brixworth Homeowners Association, which readily agreed the project was worthwhile and gave it the green-light.
Royster did a lot of research on planning and construction on what she envisioned, and sought assistance on the Nextdoor.com website to find a builder. Lori Cox of Walnut Grove subdivision took note and volunteered her husband, Blaine Cox, to do the work. He agreed, and did his own research while working with Royster on the design.
“He put a lot into it,” Royster said. “He really went all out,” noting Cox finished the project in about three weeks.
“He said it took him a little longer than he anticipated, but he has the pattern now and said if anyone else wanted one, he could knock a new one out pretty quickly.
“He did a fantastic job,” she added. “His attention to detail is obvious, and I am thrilled with the finished product.”
The two-story waterproof library “could easily hold 30 books,” Royster said. “It’s pretty big, but I don’t want to overcrowd it.”
Users are encouraged to take a book, then return it or leave some different ones for others to enjoy.
“We need more children’s books and kids’ novels, not picture books and not big coffee table books,” Royston said. “We also want books that are modern and contemporary, not some copy of say, ‘Mice and Men’ from the back of your closet that you read in 1956 — no one wants to read that.”
She said her initial plea for more recently published volumes yielded authors such as Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly and John Grisham.
Royston said paperbacks and hard-back books both are welcome, although she said “there is nothing like a hardback book. I think they are more enjoyable and you really feel like you have accomplished something when you finish it.”
The structure was placed during the last full week of July, just across the street from Royster’s house, and she was very careful about that aspect too.
“We even checked and made sure with the utility companies and the sprinkler people (about the placement),” she said.
“It was more than just wanting to do it — I wanted it done correctly.”
Royster also was adamant about the structure’s location.
“I wanted it to be easily accessible,” she said. “We are in a very walkable area, not only in our neighborhood, but we are also close to Anchor Park and Turkey Creek.”
Royster said it is not her intention for the library to take the place of the public library, “but I just wanted to make books available and convenient to pick up while people are already out walking.
“And, I think it speaks (well) of the neighborhood as being nice and family-friendly,” she added.
Royster said she realizes the Brixworth structure is not the only one in Farragut: she heard a similar miniature lending library is located in the Sailview neighborhood.
But this newest one may be sparking a trend of its own. Royster said she already has received a call from a Jefferson Park resident who is thinking of adding a similar feature to that neighborhood.