As summer comes to an end and Gaunt Park’s usual warm-weather activities wind down, villagers can look forward to another activity that will be available at the park year-round: reading.
A new Little Free Library is on track to be installed at Gaunt Park this month, and the library will be filled with books themed around social and racial justice. It will be located near the playground at the entrance of the park, and will mainly feature books aimed at children and teens, with some books for adults.
YS Community Library Youth Librarian Nacim Sajabi, who initiated the idea of the library, told the News last week that she could think of no better place to host the new library than Gaunt Park.
“Wheeling Gaunt was able to buy freedom [from enslavement] for himself and his family and then donated the land [for the park] — what an incredible example,” she said.
According to Sajabi, the new compact library has been about a year in the making, with the idea first presented to area youth at last year’s annual Young People of Color pool party at Gaunt Park.
Kids were asked to vote on ideas for designs. One of the ideas with the most votes — a structure surrounded by pieces of art — was presented to local designer and artist Keith Kresge. He went on to conceive of the tall, white cabinet structure, secured on a pole and topped with wooden shingles, and flanked on each side by 12 paintings of quilt squares.
“Because most of the Little Free Libraries [in the village] are smaller, I wanted this one to kind of grow out of the ground,” Kresge said of the design. “And then we’ll have basically these totems with the quilt symbols on each side, and visible from both sides of the library.”
The colorful wooden quilt patterns were painted by Kresge and his wife, Elaine Kresge, and by local McKinney Middle School students and youth involved in the Village Impact Project.
The significance of the quilt squares rests on widely reported historical lore that quilts were hung along the Underground Railroad with hidden symbols stitched into them as messages meant for Black Americans escaping enslavement. One pattern might mean to follow the North Star; another to leave the road and follow animal trails through the woods; another to follow the paths of geese.