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Architectural-Specific Design and Build of Little Free Libraries
Since 2009, the Little Free Libraries (LFL) organization has been spreading knowledge in communities worldwide. Their “take a book, leave a book” mantra empowers neighborhoods by offering a free source of literature that changes with each new user, and there are now over 50,000 registered LFLs. For this senior capstone design project, Little Free Libraries were designed and built for two Kalamazoo homes. The designs drew inspiration from the aesthetics of the neighborhoods in which they will reside. One is a Craftsman style library for placement in Kalamazoo’s West Main Hill historic district, and the second is influenced by its setting in a neighborhood of mid-century architecture. Construction methods and materials also drew on those typical of their respective eras. For the historic library, mortise and tenon joinery, typical of quality, early 1900s Craftsman furniture, was used in place of more modern fasteners such as screws, nails, and adhesives. The contemporary design used intricate Japanese joinery to combine library sections. Discreet solar lighting allows visibility inside each library when the door is opened.
The full engineering design process was followed throughout the project. Starting with problem definition that included identifying the very different criteria for the two libraries, and continuing through brainstorming and extensive research, multiple design options for each library were produced. Hand sketching was followed by computer-based designs using SolidWorks and Creo CAD systems. Following client consultation and evaluation against identified criteria, these design options were narrowed to the final chosen models, which were then evaluated, tested against criteria and client requirements, and finalized. A bill of materials and cost estimate was created for each library. Construction instructions were also created. For the Craftsman library, intended as a model for kits suitable for purchase by those wishing to build their own Little Free Library, step-by-step instructions that included variations for multiple historic home styles were created. For the contemporary library, a short run production with the addition of exterior seating, a set of “Instructables,” suitable for posting online, was produced.
This capstone engineering technology project included students from engineering design technology, manufacturing engineering technology, and engineering management technology majors. The interdisciplinary nature of the capstone team provided a diversity of knowledge and skills, and students were able to demonstrate mastery of their own program while learning more about the interconnectivity of typical engineering design. In the end, this senior project team not only created useful, beautiful products that fulfilled customer requirements, but added to the enrichment of their community as well.