Little Free Library is big sign community building works in Aliso Viejo
A ribbon cutting to open the Little Free Library built and installed by members of a Baha’i-initiated junior youth group in Aliso Viejo, California, didn’t come out of the blue.
Attended by the mayor and other officials, the July 20 ceremony celebrated a project that emerged from 15 years of community building by Baha’is and friends in this southern Orange County city, incorporated only since 2001.
“In Aliso Viejo, Baha’is and their friends are engaged in a community-building process that cultivates love and translates it into action,” says Teri Knoll-Binaei, who chairs the local Baha’i governing council, the Spiritual Assembly.
A special spark of commitment to “reshaping society around principles of oneness such as love, inclusivity and reciprocity” is shining out of neighborhoods that are the focus of intensive activity, she adds.
The Little Free Library, a first for Aliso Viejo, was built and then installed outside of the Boys and Girls Club in Iglesia Park as a community service by participants in a junior youth group that meets weekly in the Las Iglesias neighborhood.
Little Free Libraries are popping up around the world as a way to make books accessible to as many people as possible. They typically resemble a tiny house on a wooden post and contain three or four shelves of books that anyone can take or donate.
The ribbon cutting was the highlight of a Summer Fun Festival also sponsored by the Baha’is of Aliso Viejo. The free event was open to all ages and included games, face painting, water balloons, art activities, a book fair, and lunch for all.
The festival was publicized in local media, on the Aliso Viejo Baha’i website, and through flyers distributed to the surrounding neighborhood in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club. More than 75 children and adults attended.
After raising funds through a bake sale in their neighborhood, the junior youth group spent three months planning, constructing, decorating and installing the Little Free Library. City officials gave support to the project after the young people presented their idea at a City Council meeting in December 2018.
Upon completion, the junior youths shared the final product by visiting the City Council a second time. The mayor took it upon himself to gather books with the help of members of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation to stock the library for its grand opening.
“Now, a new Little Free Library in Aliso Viejo’s Iglesia Park will join the movement to share books, bring young people together and create communities of readers,” says Knoll-Binaei.
The community-building process of which the junior youth group is a part revolves around classes of spiritual education for all ages. Five children’s classes and two junior youth groups meet regularly. Parents of some of the children have been meeting in study circles, designed for people ages 15 and up to initiate and grow such activities for the betterment of neighborhoods and their inhabitants.
Also part of the flow of activity and learning are several prayer gatherings for all faiths. One is a youth devotional in a Las Iglesias neighborhood home.
“With the front door always open, the house is the place for many gatherings and meetings, including barbeques, [Baha’i] Holy Day celebrations, informal get-togethers, and regular consultations with local residents on the needs of their community,” she says.
“During the school year, it also serves as the hub for a weekly ‘homework club’ where children can seek assistance with their daily school work.”
In a nearby park, Baha’is and friends have held five full-day children’s camps that include storytelling, arts and crafts, music, and memorization stations, always organized around a virtue. Each camp draws about 80 children from surrounding neighborhoods.
As a goal for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, the Baha’is of Aliso Viejo also committed themselves to raising the profile of the Faith in their city.
“Their success was realized,” says Knoll-Binaei, “through coordinated efforts [that] included launching a new website, actively participating in social media, participating in two city festivals with an informational booth, holding a well-publicized food drive for a local food pantry, actively participating in the citywide interfaith organization, presenting their service project in front of the City Council on two occasions, and, finally, hosting this ribbon-cutting ceremony with the city’s support.”