By his own estimation, Joey Carbone of Mount Prospect has not parked his car in his garage in two years. There’s no room. Instead, he refers to the space as “his shop,” outfitted with a range of tools, paint supplies, wood and even roofing shingles.
Joey Carbone of Mount Prospect works with his kids Chris, 6, left, and Nicky, 9. His garage has been transformed into a workshop where he builds the mini libraries. – Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
The better to build and design individual mini libraries for a growing number of families in the Mount Prospect community. Its premise is simple: give a book, take a book.
Carbone installed his latest one, his 80th, in a yard last week, with another 80 families on a waiting list. Most have been installed in Mount Prospect, but a few have been mounted in Arlington Heights and Des Plaines.
Carbone built his first mini library for his own yard after his wife, Jen, a kindergarten teacher at Dewey Elementary School in Evanston, suggested it.
“We have so many books in our house,” Carbone says, “I’m surprised it hasn’t sunk into the ground. That’s how important reading is to us.”
Joey Carbone and his children Chris, 6, and Nicky, 9, left, work on building mini libraries in the garage of their home in Mount Prospect. – Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
Right from the start, Carbone shared his project with the Mount Prospect Neighbors Facebook page, where he drew immediate interest — and donations of supplies.
He credits his woodworking skills to his father, Salvatore, a retired barber, who is good with his hands and taught his son how to build and restore projects.
Carbone kept his own design simple, fashioning the library as a red, one-room schoolhouse, complete with roofing shingles on top and a compartment inside for the books, and all before installing it in his front yard.
“My kids loved the library right from the start,” Carbone says, “just the novelty of having a tiny library in the front yard was so fascinating for them. They check it daily to see how many books have been taken. It’s really piqued their interest in reading.”
Joey Carbone of Mount Prospect has built more than 80 mini libraries for families in Mount Prospect in order to encourage kids to read. – Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
Carbone says interest from the community has grown by word-of-mouth and from the visibility on Facebook. He even was singled out for one of Mount Prospect’s Shining Star Awards last year.
“The requests from families who want one is steady,” Carbone adds. “I hear from people daily or weekly. The waiting list just keeps growing.”
Carbone never charges people for his services, but he does involve families in getting building materials for the library — and in designing it.
“I have an interest in art, so I try to match the design of the library to the family — and the children,” Carbone says. “I’ve painted them to look like everything from Dr. Seuss, to Spiderman, to one with trains going around it.”
He invites family members to help with the building and painting process in his garage, and in the installation in the yard. In the process, Carbone says, he has felt a heightened sense of community.
“You really get to know people through this exchange,” Carbone says. “It’s really been fun.”
During the height of the pandemic, families began stocking the mini libraries with nonperishable food items, but lately they’ve been sticking to sharing books, as well as toys, games, puzzles and flashcards.
As a result, Carbone’s quest to put more books in the hands of children has grown into a communitywide mission, with a dream of putting a mini library on every block.
“The Mount Prospect Mini-Library Mission was created to put smiles on the faces of avid readers,” Carbone says. “Our goal is to promote literacy — and community — in Mount Prospect and neighboring suburbs.”
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