Hi there! My name is Nicole Marrocco, and I’m the 2014 – 2015 AmeriCorps member for the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. As a newcomer to the field of historic preservation and a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, I’m very excited to dive headfirst into this experience and to call West Virginia home for the next year.
While I may be a newbie in terms of preserving and reusing historic buildings, I’m no stranger to the study and preservation of material culture. In 2010, I graduated from Boston University with a dual B.A. in Archaeology and Classical Civilizations. In my classes I developed an interest in cultural resource management and the preservation and interpretation of archaeological sites. In addition to my coursework, my love of history and historic buildings runs deep.
I have fond childhood memories of visiting Lowell, Massachusetts, in awe of the dilapidated, textile mills that lined the canals of the city—some of you may know Lowell as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and the first planned industrial city in the country. Years later as a college student, I returned to a vibrant and bustling city to serve as an intern at the Lowell National Historical Park. As an intern, I had the opportunity to truly get a sense of how much historic preservation and heritage tourism had revitalized the city of Lowell in the time since my childhood.
Having seen the good that historic preservation can do close to home, I’m so happy for the opportunity to serve with Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. PAWV is the statewide grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting historic preservation in the Mountain State. With a commitment to preserving West Virginia’s unique cultural heritage, PAWV and its members work to save the past and to benefit the present with a vision for the future by supporting and promoting historic preservation through education and outreach advocacy, preservation tools, and heritage tourism.
While the first few weeks of service have been chock-filled with training, we have already had the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. At the combined Preserve WV / Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps training at Jackson’s Mill, a group of AmeriCorps members assembled “Little Free Libraries” as a community service project. A cross between a dollhouse and a birdhouse on a post, these small shelters for used books operate on the “take a book, leave a book” principle.
Prior to the training at Jackson’s Mill, Lynn Stasick and I prepared all the materials necessary to assemble each of the libraries, including making a pattern model and cutting the wood required (Did I mention I learned how to use a power saw?!). We then instructed four teams of AmeriCorps members how to assemble the libraries at Jackson’s Mill. Each of the four AmeriCorps-constructed Little Free Libraries will be painted by residents of the community in which it will be placed, creating a shared sense of pride and allowing us to generate enthusiasm for the libraries before they’ve even been installed. Once installed, neighbors will have the opportunity to share their favorite books with each other.
Although it seems small, this is a fantastic project because it can have such a large community impact. The Little Free Library movement promotes literacy and a love of reading by providing access to books worldwide. And as our experience demonstrates, the libraries also build a sense of community as we—AmeriCorps members, skilled tradesmen, schoolchildren—share skills and creativity during the construction process.