Tony Simmons

Kierstynn Crawford was looking for ways to contribute to her community when she started the Introduction to Public Relations course in August 2023. She found a group of like-minded classmates who love to read and have a passion for literacy.

Together, they discovered a common purpose: To share their love of books by establishing a Little Free Library on the FSU Panama City campus.

“My friends and I are bookworms,” said Crawford, 19, “and there are a lot of other students here who love to read, too.”

Building a stand-alone free library

Intro to Public Relations, a required course for Professional Communication majors, is taught by Brian Parker, Ph.D., the program coordinator. On the first day of class, Parker observed Crawford reading an actual printed-on-paper book while waiting for class to start. Delighted and inspired by her, Parker initiated a classroom conversation about the importance of reading physical books—including how it’s become a “lost art” in today’s world. The discussion inspired what would become the class project of the semester.

Professional Communications student Tristan Costales, 24, another of Parker’s students this fall, hopes to become a writer after graduation. He said the Little Free Library project was of particular importance in light of declining literacy rates in Florida.

“One of the big things that we’re hoping to achieve with this initiative is to help promote reading,” Costales said. “We’re also looking to promote better literacy and better critical thinking skills.”

Building a stand-alone free library

Costales, Crawford, Parker, and seven other students are spearheading the campaign to make reading a staple to student life via access to free books.

Excited by the potential of the little library, Milinda J. Stephenson, Ph.D., a writing professor at FSU PC, offered some guidance to the students. She suggested using the new turquoise color FSU has adopted to its branding to add some depth and personality to the final project.

“I am of the firm belief that reading is reading,” Stephenson said. “Whenever a student finds a subject that they’re very interested in, and they continue to read on it, it increases their vocabulary, it helps their writing become better, and it improves their reading.” 

Stephenson said she loved the idea of including classic novels in the little library, but she wouldn’t want to limit the choices: “It doesn’t have to be classics. When someone starts reading, they eventually go to the classics because they become hungry for those insights.”

FSU PC Associate University Librarian Jason Martin, Ed.D., worked closely with Parker and his students overseeing the project. Asked about the importance of having access to free physical books on campus, he focused on how crucial reading and writing skills are to education.

“If you can read at grade level or above by the third grade, it determines the rest of your academic career,” Martin said. “Good writing is good thinking. I think something like the Little Free Library is great because it’s a community spot, it’s a gathering spot (and), it allows people to share things that are really special to them.”

The Little Free Library program, a nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, has more than 150,000 libraries in 120 countries that have shared more than 300 million books world-wide. According to the website,, the mission is to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Library book-exchange boxes.

Building a stand-alone free library

Donations to the FSU PC Little Free Library can be dropped off at the kiosk located in front of the Holley Academic Center, 4750 Collegiate Drive, Panama City, during regular hours. All are welcome to visit, and all who take a book are asked to leave a book in exchange.