Scout Joel Cluff Jill Helland, principal at Garden Lakes Elementary in Avondale

Scout Joel Cluff recently completed his Eagle Project, which was building and installing a mini sharing library. Jill Helland, principal at Garden Lakes Elementary in Avondale, was excited that he chose their school to put the library. 

Joel Cluff loves to read, and his dad is good at woodworking. So, when it came time to plan his Eagle Project, a free mini sharing library seemed a natural fit.

“Reading is important,” the scout said. “It’s an escape.”

Mini sharing libraries have been popping up at random places all over the country. They look like a little house about the size of a very large mailbox. They hold free books that people can take, with the understanding that people also donate a book for others to read.

Joel put his head together with his dad, Paul Cluff, and the two came up with a game plan. They designed it, drew it, got materials and started building.

“We thought it would be an easy project,” Joel added. But as his mom, Erika Cluff, explained, things didn’t always go as planned.

“There were a few setbacks,” she said.

For one, a small piece of the nail gun broke, then there were issues with the shingles and finally when they cemented the post into the ground it wasn’t quite right and had to be adjusted.

But as Joel had been experiencing during his years as a scout, you just keep working until it’s done.

“I learned that you can get over setbacks. You can’t give up,” Joel said.

Joel also enlisted assistance from his fellow scouts in Boy Scouts of America (Scouts BSA) Troop 924, who helped by staining shingles, painting the sides blue and also installing the completed mini library in its final resting place.

The mini sharing library found a home at Garden Lakes Elementary in Avondale. Joel knew the principal, Jill Helland, who was overjoyed about the idea of adding it to the school.

At the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony, Helland explained to students the concept of the mini sharing library and that she hoped they would use it often.

“You put a book inside, and then you can take one out,” she said.

One student in the crowd had a question: “Can you keep it?”

The answer: “Yes!”

The mini sharing library is located outside in the middle of the courtyard of the school, close to the school library. The school’s librarian will keep an eye on the mini sharing library.

Joel had already received donations of several books, which he put inside to get it all started. And, by the way, his favorite book is “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

For more information about mini sharing libraries, visit