Photo by Nick Fiala

Pictured is the nearly-finished welding project by Rensselaer Central High School’s welding class to turn one of the little free library dispensers into a robot.

RENSSELAER — Rensselaer Central School Board Vice President Julie Koczan recently began work on a project to make free “little libraries” available throughout the city.

These “libraries” are actually old newspaper dispensers, which have been filled with books that locals can take for free, though they are encouraged to leave one of their own books behind for the next person who comes along.

“I got a grant through the Jasper Newton Foundation,” Koczan said, when telling how she funded the project. “Leave a book, take a book is all it is. It’s the whole premise of a free little library. It’s not for anything else — just leave a book, take a book.”

At least one little library is already out, across Washington Street from the eMbers Venue. Another will soon be at Anytime Fitness, and three more dispensers have been given to Rensselaer Central High School.

“The last three are going to be done by the high school welding class,” Koczan said. “And I’ve given them free reign to be creative with them.”

The welding class, led by teacher Bryce Tanner, have been busy transforming the dispensers into different creations with their new welding skills. One has already been transformed into a robot, and there are even more ambitious plans for the one of the others.

“We’ve got one in the works; it’s kind of been put on the back burner for now,” Tanner said. “It’s going to eventually be Mr. Bomber — or as close as we can get it to Mr. Bomber — the school mascot.”

Koczan said the idea for the libraries came from brainstorming with locals.

“A couple years ago, I talked to some people in the community about free little libraries and were interested in that,” she said. “I thought that’d be a good idea. I like Pinterest. I happened to see one that was made out of newspaper dispensers.”

Fortunately, she had a fresh supply of newspaper dispensers available to her through the Rensselaer Republican.

“When you guys went down to having the newspaper just two days a week, I noticed that some of the dispensers around the community had disappeared,” she said. “So I figured there were some available. So I reached out and wrote the grant and got that.”

Koczan is trying to spread word of the project via the Facebook page “Free Little Library Rensselaer.”

“People are utilizing that,” she said. “I post updates and they’re contacting me through that for donations. I’m taking book donations at this time, but once they’re all out, I anticipate it being self-maintaining.”