‘Little free library’ an instant hit

New book-sharing box an instant hit with ‘upriver’ Cape Horn-Skye community

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Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School teacher Darcy Hickey (left) and principal Brian Amundson attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the debut of the school's new "little free library" on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Contributed photo courtesy of the Washougal School District)

Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School teacher Darcy Hickey said she has been thinking about bringing a “little free library” to the rural Washougal school for the better part of a decade.

“We’re so far upriver that to go to the (Washougal Community Library) is kind of a big ordeal, so having something closer for the community up here is nice,” Hickey said.

Hickey celebrated the realization of her dream this month, when Cape Horn-Skye Elementary students officially welcomed their new library with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 11.

“We are very excited to bring a ‘little free library’ to the upriver community,” Cape Horn-Skye principal Brian Amundson said. “It is another way to connect our students and families to great books. It was great to see how excited our students were about this.”

A “little free library” is a book-sharing box that allows anyone to take or leave a book at any time. More than 90,0000 boxes in 91 countries are registered with Little Free Library, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization that promotes neighborhood book exchanges, and can be found on an online map that provides global positioning system (GPS) coordinates and other information.

The book box gives Cape Horn-Skye Elementary teachers “another opportunity to encourage our students and families to read outside of the school day,” according to Amundson.

“One of the most important ways to help someone become a better reader is to read books that are of high interest,” he said. “Becoming a stronger reader has a significant impact on all other academic areas. The ‘little free library’ will be a free resource for our families to access books for their kids to read and enjoy.”

Hickey said the library is already taking off.

“We’ve had, probably, a 100-percent turnaround of the books that were originally in there. People are putting them in, and then they’re gone, and new books appear. It’s pretty cool. I check it in the mornings when I get here and make sure there’s enough books in there, but so far I haven’t had to put more books in because people are putting them in,” she said. “I think having this library is another draw for our community, and that it will be used a lot.”

Little library honors behind-the-scenes school volunteer

Hickey’s son, Michael, a senior at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, made the box and gave it to her as a Mother’s Day present earlier this month.

“He pulls up, and the box in the back of his truck,” Hickey said. “I kind of lost it. I was thrilled that he remembered, and that I finally had it after years of talking about it. Mary Lou Woody used to be the principal up here, and I talked to her about it years ago, and she was on board, but I just never got around to it.”

Hickey became even more emotional after she turned the box around on the advice of her sister-in-law.

“I saw there was a plaque in memory of my dad,” she said. “I started crying and hugging my son. It means a lot to me that he also thought of (my father) when he did this.”

Hickey describes her father, Bob Karcher, as a “huge part” of Cape Horn-Skye Elementary. Karcher, who died in October 2021, served as an unofficial, but much-appreciated, school volunteer for many years, helping to prepare events and activities at the rural elementary school.

“He was homebound for the last five years,” Hickey said of Karcher. “Before that, he would come in and help set up my classroom and do bulletin boards. Since he was homebound, it gave him a purpose, something to do. He’d cut out things that I had laminated or get ‘baggies’ ready for class projects. We used his garage to do the ‘Kodiak Crate’ science kits that we gave out during COVID. It was totally behind the scenes, but it was something that gave him a lot of joy in the last few years.”

Karcher never forgot to ask Hickey about her students and their activities, even during his final days.

“My dad loved this school,” Hickey said. “That was the love of his life, doing all of these projects for Cape Horn-Skye. These kids don’t know him, but he knew them, and they meant so much to him. He’s definitely smiling from above and thrilled that in a way he’s still giving to these kids.”