New presidential library brings books to St. Olaf Avenue

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St. Olaf College has a new presidential library.

A miniature version of the college’s iconic Steensland Library now sits in front of the president’s house on St. Olaf Avenue — and passersby are encouraged to open its doors, ponder its contents, and take (or leave) a book.

This new Little Free Library is a fitting addition to the home of President David R. Anderson ’74, a former English professor who frequently pens reviews of books he’s read and shares them on PDA’s Bookshelf.

“Lots of people walk by our house in the course of a day: students, faculty, staff, people from Northfield. It seemed as though it would be a good idea to offer them some reading material as they journeyed by,” Anderson says.

“I hope walking by that beautiful creation by Steve Zubik will give people pleasure every day. I hope everyone who looks in the library finds a good book to read. And I hope people share some of their favorite books for others to read.” — President Anderson

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Many are known for their creative designs. When Anderson approached the college’s carpenters about building a Little Free Library, they suggested modeling it after one of the campus buildings.

Steensland Library was built in 1902 with a donation from Consul Halle Steensland, who believed that libraries were places where culture could exist through the acquirement of knowledge. The Little Free Library on St. Olaf Avenue aims to do exactly that as passersby acquire new knowledge and leave their own through book donations.

“There will be a wide variety of reading material in the library,” Anderson says. “Right now there are novels by Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Ivan Turgenev; some detective novels; a cookbook; some books about higher education; and some books about animals. We want to keep a mix of light reading and classic texts.”

Where Privacy Dies, a detective novel by Priscilla Paton, Anderson’s wife, will also be included after its publication on August 1.

The creation of the Little Free Library would not have been possible without the carpentry work of Steven Zubik.

“It always feels good to build a piece that sits somewhere on the Hill, hopefully adding to the charm of the campus,” Zubik says. “Mark Kaderlik, another St. Olaf carpenter, was kind enough to add the copper to the roof. With almost every project that comes down our ramp, we bounce ideas off of each other and help one another problem solve, so it’s a team effort.”