By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – After seeing Little Free Libraries during a three-week trip around the world, Wendy Fichter decided to launch one close to home, on Euclid, one block southeast of Allen Road.
As a member of the Dearborn Heights Rotary Club, she has seen five Little Free Libraries established in Dearborn Heights, which inspired her to install one in her hometown of Allen Park.
Little Free Libraries, usually a small wooden box of books mounted on a post, is a free “take a book, return a book” exchange for anyone to enjoy.
Fichter said she hopes the Little Free Library attracts the children and caregivers from the preschool at the end of her block who pass by daily during walks.
“Wouldn’t that be fun if they could stop and read a book or two?” she said. “They might enjoy that.”
Fichter decided to enliven the Little Free Library with a garden.
She saw a grand piano garden on Pinterest, and being a musician and a pianist, decided that was what she wanted.
She invited friends over on June 4 to celebrate her birthday and asked them to bring a book or a flower.
Fichter said the grand piano is a real one that was beyond repair and gutted, then painted with outdoor house paint, so it can remain outdoors year-round.
Her father, Ron Biggs, who tunes and repairs pianos, reinforced it, drilled some holes for drainage, and braced the piano lid so it stays in the open position.
Biggs said the 1923 piano, which he had in storage, needed to be rebuilt.
“I had it there for 10 years and hadn’t done anything to it, so I said I’ll use it as her piano for the garden,” Biggs said.
When he gutted the piano he removed the strings, plate, and action, which are the keys and hammers that hit the strings.
“There is nothing in there that the weather can really hurt at this point,” Biggs said.
He put garden paper over the sound board, the piece of wood piano strings are stretched across, before he covered it with dirt. He said the wood is probably walnut or mahogany.
He said it would have cost him more to rebuild the piano than he could have recouped by selling it.
“I guess you could take a purist attitude and say, ‘You’ve ruined an instrument,’” Biggs said. “Well, maybe we did, but we created a garden.”
Fichter said the Little Free Library highlighted in her piano garden is part of a global phenomena.
“There are hundreds of thousands of (Little Free Libraries) around the world,” Fichter said.
She said she has more book donations than will fit in the Little Free Library box right now, and said she will replenish the library as needed. Book donations from borrowers are welcome.
“Every once in a while people really catch on to the idea and they will bring a few,” Fichter said. “So you will get new books like that.”
An avid reader herself, Fichter said other people have already borrowed books from the Little Free Library.
For more information about Little Free Libraries and locations, go to littlefreelibrary.org.