ROCKINGHAM — Dale and Susan Furr are the stewards of Richmond County’s first Little Free Library, but they say the book box is really a testament to the man who built it — and the dad who inspired him.
Rob McCullough, a longtime friend of the Furrs, came across an article in the insert section of the Richmond County Daily Journal a few years ago about the Little Free Library movement and one day, offhandedly asked whether Susan had read it.
“And she said she had,” McCullough said. “We got the idea from your newspaper. I was reading it and told Susan ‘You know, this is a good idea.’ And we meant to do it then, but time got out from under us and it was a while before we got back to it.”
The miniature libraries have cropped up across the country since 2009, when Todd Bol of Wisconsin built a model of a single-room schoolhouse in tribute to his mother, who loved to read and was a retired teacher.
The first Little Free Library was mounted to a post in Bol’s yard and filled with books, with the intention of promoting literacy among adults and instilling a life-long love of reading in children. The Furrs’ book box became Little Free Library No. 16,304.
McCullough had moved back to his hometown of Rockingham to care for his mother after spending 37 years in Raleigh. When his father passed away, McCullough inherited his woodworking tools and the shop where he’d worked on projects.
“Dad did all kinds of things,” McCullough said. “He made picture frames, lots of Christmas things. I have all his patterns and his tools.”
“Ninety percent of anything is tools,” Dale Furr said, adding that he didn’t have the kinds of skills or tools necessary for building the library box. He did, however, mount the box on posts three feet into the ground in concrete.
“It’s not going anywhere,” he said, smiling. “And Susan did all the painting.”
The red library box resembles those found on the project’s website at www.littlefreelibrary.org — and built to specifications outlined there, McCullough used recycled materials to build the Furrs’ library.
“The wood, even the shingles are recycled,” he said.
Susan Furr, herself a retired teacher, knows the importance of making quality reading materials accessible to all people at all times. She said she’s been pleased at the number of people who have visited since a grand opening event drew about 35 people last Saturday.
“We’ve had an amazing amount of children and young people come by,” Dale Furr said.
“One of my former students came by and brought a box full of teen books,” Susan Furr said. “And really, the bottom shelf is for children’s books and the top has more grown-up books, but there’s no obligation to leave a book in place of one you take from here. Anyone is welcome to come and get a book. If they leave one, that’s great, but most of all, this is about promoting reading and giving everyone the chance to read good books. I’d like to see these libraries all over town.”
Asked whether McCullough would consider building them for others, he said he would.
“They might want to bring their scrap lumber,” he said. “The specs are on the website, and I enjoyed working on this one for Susan and Dale.”
Susan Furr said she has a few finishing touches a friend of hers will add to the paint job, making the sides appear like windows into a library with people sitting and reading books.
Unlike some libraries, this one has no set daily hours or late fees.
“We’re retired,” Dale Furr said. “So anytime someone wants to come out and get a book is fine. They can just come over, look at the books. No need to check in with us, either. Today we had one person drive up, get out, take a book and leave. And that is just fine.”
“I put this plaque onto the side here,” Susan Furr said. She said it was something for McCullough in return for his help in finally making their Little Free Library a reality.
It reads: “Rob McCullough, for the love of reading and of woodworking. In memory of his dad, Mack McCullough.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.