Fourteen-year-old Amy Hiestand decided to share her love of reading with the community through building and maintaining several Little Free Libraries.
Hiestand is medically fragile, and she said when she was sick or going through testing, she would always read to escape. She said she wanted to share her love of reading with others.
“So being medically fragile meant there were times where she was sick or undergoing treatments or diagnostic tests and she’s always loved reading, so she disappears into the world of reading,” said Amy’s mom Tawny Hiestand.
Little Free Libraries
Tawny said Amy found out about the Little Free Library concept and wanted to create her own. It was up to Amy to schedule an appointment with Northside Baptist Church off of Highway 29 to propose placing the first library there.
The Little Free Library at the church went up in June 2018, and Tawny had found a completed library with books on Facebook Marketplace they were able to use.
From there, Amy wanted to expand and set up more Little Free Libraries. She wanted to focus on putting the libraries in disadvantaged areas, after hearing from Tawny’s sister who teaches elementary school in Fulton County and specializes in reading.
“Hearing her talk about children who don’t have access to books – mom and dad can’t get them to the library during the hours the library is open – it instilled into Amy wanting to get books into more disadvantaged areas,” Tawny said.
The second library, which was put up in June of this year, is at Loblolly Pine Co. off of Franklin Highway in Newnan. The third library at Ray Park in Newnan was put up earlier in August and is a collaboration with Keep Newnan Beautiful.
Each library is registered with Little Free Libraries which maps where libraries are located on it’s website, littlefreelibrary.org .
Amy is the face of Hometown Book Nook, and the rest of the family helps her behind the scenes, including Tawny, Amy’s brother and Amy’s grandparents.
Amy and her grandfather worked together to build the second and third libraries. Tawny said he cut and constructed the main structure, and Amy sanded and painted.
Each library has different designs but is painted with Amy’s signature colors, teal and pink. They use outdoor paint on both the inside and outside of the library to protect it from the elements.
They also use silicone anywhere water could leak in to protect the books.
Sherwin Williams donates the exterior paint and Lowe’s donates the building materials for the structure of the libraries.
All three of the libraries have books ranging in reading levels from babies up through adults. Tawny said all of the books are family-friendly, and nothing is in the libraries that she wouldn’t let Amy read.
Tawny said they are realistic in that sometimes books leave their libraries, and don’t come back. She said she is constantly asking for donations to keep the libraries filled.
Tawny said she has purchased more books for the libraries than have been donated. She said she tries to find deals on books or will look for them on Facebook Marketplace.
They never label Bibles, dictionaries and thesauruses because they want people to take and keep those.
Since Amy is immune-compromised, all books are quarantined when they come in. When they receive new books, they put them in bins and leave them in their carport for three days to kill off anything that could be growing.
Tawny said sometimes people will take books from the library, and replace them with new ones. She said for the most part, they leave them in the library, but if there are books that are damaged or outdated they will clean them out.
They said they have about 200 to 300 books that they rotate out between the libraries. Tawny said they rotate the books by season every quarter.
Amy makes sure to stock the libraries weekly, with about 15 to 20 books each time. If they come across other Little Libraries, they will check to see how many books they have and if they need more, they will add some of their own.
Each chapter book they have in the libraries has a bookmark for the reader to use.
Reading as an escape
“My getaway from all the medical stuff is to read,” Amy said. “Reading, you can go places and be back for dinner.”
Tawny said by reading, Amy is able to go places she wouldn’t be able to go in real life.
“A lot of people underestimate her,” Tawny said. “With her medical stuff, people will tell her she can’t do this, and we’ve always told her ‘can’t never could,’ and she’s not allowed to use the words ‘I can’t.’”
Tawny said she’s always told Amy that anything she wants to do, they will support her. She said if Amy needs help to reach a goal, they will always help her achieve it.
Amy is homeschooled so they can travel to different doctor’s appointments, which allows them to keep up with the Little Free Libraries. Amy’s goal is to have 12 libraries set up by the end of this year.
“Realistically I’m trying to prepare her for the chance that may not happen because COVID-19 has hit,” Tawny said.
Tawny said that one thing she has always taught Amy is that you can’t let what other people think hold you back.
“This is her ministry,” Tawny said. “She wants to make it where books are available to anybody, and people like her.”
Amy is working on setting up libraries at other locations in the county.
They are currently in need of young adult and teen books, books for men, self-help books and diverse books. The Hometown Book Nook Facebook page has a link to their Amazon Wish List.
“There’s a big movement now to get diverse books out there,” Tawny said. “The only way to conquer especially what’s going on in the world right now is to open the minds of everybody, but to start that is with your children.”
Tawny said if people want books but can’t get to the libraries, send them a message on the Facebook page, and they will bring the books to you.
“If you are immune-compromised, we will wipe them down with Lysol wipes and put them in a bag and drop them on your porch for you,” Tawny said.