About a year ago, Nikki Biefel was playing Pokémon Go at Gold Strike Station in Arvada when she noticed an old newspaper box. The newsstand was empty and dilapidated, but Biefel, a local artist, found a flicker of inspiration.
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“I was like ‘Wow, it’s a beautiful piece of industrial design,’” Biefel said. “When you look at them, they’re actually really neat. They’re built to house periodicals and they have these great functional doors.”
Shortly after, a plan came together.
“I was like, ‘This should be a little Free Library.’ So, I looked into it and thought about it and then I went home, and I did some drawings. And I did a bunch of research into it and I turned it into a Little Free Library,” Biefel said.
Little Free Libraries are public book exchanges housed in bookcases. A nonprofit of the same name has over 90,000 registered Little Free Libraries across the country. Biefel said she had seen them around her neighborhood and occasionally deposited and took books from them.
She returned to Gold Stike Station armed with a bucket of Simple Green and went to work cleaning out the newsstand, most of which haven’t been used, according to Biefel. Wasps were a concern, but once she figured out how to rid the boxes of grime and pests, she began stocking them with books.
Biefel estimates that the newsstands go through about 150 and 300 books a week across all four libraries—the others are located at the Westminster, Pecos and Clear Creek G-Line stations, respectively—and she checks on them weekly to ensure that the stock hasn’t run low. Biefel gathers books from local book rescues and says that community members also donate to the libraries.
Shelley Cook, a District L RTD Board Member, said she found out about the libraries while riding the Gold Line one day and was thrilled.
“It was just delightful, getting off the train and saying, ‘Woah, what’s this?’ She’d done it on her own, I didn’t know if she had gotten in touch with RTD,” Cook said.
By that time, Biefel had established a Twitter account for the Gold Strike library (@StrikeLittle), so Cook reached out through the platform.
Biefel and Cook started working on expanding the project, which led to the creation of Little Free Libraries at Westminster, Pecos and Clear Creek stations.
Cook praised Biefel’s work and said that the project has helped her own reading.
“Anything I can do to help her do what (Biefel) does, I’m game for. She’s a powerhouse, she just gets good things done. She maintains those Little Free Libraries and constantly sets up collections. She is really an amazing person,” Cook said. “Since October, I’ve read 40 books. That’s much higher than I usually do.”
Cook credits Biefel curation skills, which include stocking particular kinds of books she thinks would be relevant to RTD riders and maintaining a stock of essential supplies.
“She thinks more broadly about what a library is. It’s a resource center, it’s not just for books. There’s a pretty good group of those who are homeless that go to U.S. and Sheridan. She started stocking them with masks, hygiene supplies,” Cook said.
For her part, Biefel calls the libraries her ‘most beloved art project’ because of the civic good that comes from them. She and Cook are looking to expand the project to other newsstands along RTD stops and just need more volunteer stewards to oversee new Little Free Libraries.
“I would love for the project to expand to all of the newspaper boxes. RTD paid for these things, they’re really neat boxes, they should be used. And RTD now has — when I started RTD didn’t really have a process for how it’s going to work — but now we have a foundation for how we can use these Little Free Libraries,” Biefel said.
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