Fire destroys Little Free Library at Pinckney Elementary; school looks for help to replace it

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Pinckney Elementary School has lost a piece of its community. A fire last week destroyed its Little Free Library, located outdoors at the school’s northeast entrance.

Tiffany Easley, library media specialist at Pinckney, said her “heart broke” when she learned the tiny library had been destroyed by fire.

Easley said vandals had damaged outdoor areas several times this school year, but she was unsure whether any of the incidents were related to each other. The school is located northwest of the downtown area at 810 W. Sixth St.

Pinckney Principal Miah Lugrand said the outdoor library helped connect the school with the surrounding Pinkney neighborhood. During her 2 1/2 years as principal, Lugrand said she had witnessed residents and school families alike enjoying the Little Free Library. 

“I think that’s what makes our school so community focused.”

Pinckney staff and PTO members had begun reaching out across Lawrence for help in replacing the book box. Lugrand said she welcomed assistance from those who might want to build another or donate a replacement — maybe even a free-standing one on a post.

“It’s definitely something we would love to have back.”

And although she felt sad it was destroyed, Lugrand said she was grateful the school hadn’t received any further damage beyond the library, its contents and the table upon which they sat.

Easley, too, felt thankful. The 2021-22 school year has been a challenging one for district staff and families during a budget-cutting process that at one time proposed major reductions to library staff and school closures.

“We are grateful to our neighbors and community for once again saving our beloved school,” Easley said in an email.

Mounted on the brick wall above where the little library once sat, a security camera rested on Monday. District spokesperson Julie Boyle said about the library in an email, “Apparently, someone set fire to it during the overnight hours of April 28. Two residents of the neighborhood saw the fire and reported it.”

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical personnel responded and nothing else was damaged, Boyle said.

Tom Fagan, interim fire chief, said via email that LDCFM responded to a fire controlled to the book box at Pinckney Elementary at 3:08 a.m. Thursday, April 28. The cause of the fire was still under investigation Tuesday afternoon, Fagan said.

A Google Map of the dozens of Free Little Libraries across Lawrence included a before photo of the library. A caption, and a plaque on the top of the box, said funds from The Chick-fil-A Foundation had provided it.

Scott Reed, who coordinates the map, said via email he, too, hoped the little library would be replaced.

Another beloved icon — the Wishing Bench in East Lawrence — was severely damaged by fire in August. Community members came together, and the bench was quickly replaced and rededicated in late September.

Principal Lugrand said anyone interested in building or contributing a new library could phone Boyle at 785-832-5000, or contact Lugrand by phone at 785-832-5800 or via email at

The Little Free Library movement is attributed to Todd Bol, who built the first in 2009 as a tribute to his late mother. Bol died in 2018, but the Little Free Library nonprofit lives on. Forty-two million books are shared annually in 125,000 little libraries spanning 100 countries, according to the organization’s website.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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