Massman constructs book-sharing boxes to earn Eagle

By Neal A. Johnson, Editor
Posted 6/19/24

LINN — Stuart Massman earned his Eagle rank on Feb. 20 after constructing book-sharing boxes to benefit the community before graduating last month from Linn High School.

“The …

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Massman constructs book-sharing boxes to earn Eagle


LINN — Stuart Massman earned his Eagle rank on Feb. 20 after constructing book-sharing boxes to benefit the community before graduating last month from Linn High School.

“The idea for my project came from a book-sharing box that we saw at a restaurant over in Bland,” Massman explained, noting the encounter occurred in the spring of 2023. “I decided that since the library here in Linn had moved closer to school and out of town, it would be a good idea to put little libraries at the parks to let people read books again, and not have to go across town just to get a book.”

Massman added that some local daycare children previously walked to the library when it was on Jefferson Street. “Now that the library has moved to Rt. CC, closer to the school they don’t have the ability to get a book once a week or whenever they go by.”

Though Massman has been a dedicated Scout since the first grade, he didn’t start thinking about an Eagle project until his sophomore year, when he began seriously planning.

“We talked about it when we saw it at the restaurant, and then we looked at designs to see which would look better and which would be the best option to go with,” Stuart said of the conversation he had with his parents, Joe and Melissa. “The way the book-sharing boxes work is that once built and placed in the parks, they will be filled with donated books, which people can take if they would like, or they can donate books to the boxes.”

Massman also had input from city officials to ensure the locations presented no danger of hitting a utility line. He explained his idea with a cardboard prototype to Linn aldermen in September 2023, and the Eagle Board on Feb. 20, both of which signed off on the project. “They asked me a couple of questions about it,” Stuart said of Eagle Board members. “They had me step out of the room while they talked about and approved it and had me come back in and tell me that I was good to go.”

Once he had his ducks in a row, so to speak, he began construction with the help of family and friends. “We could have other Scouts help, but they couldn’t operate the electric tools because of Scout guidelines,” Stuart said. “So my parents used those and helped us with that.” Construction took a couple of weeks because he was building two boxes.

One is at the Linn City Park, placed purposefully next to the pavilion. “I did that so people can use the picnic tables under the pavilion to read,” said Massman.

The other is at Maguire Park, near the playground equipment, with the same concept: to allow people to read using the nearby picnic tables.

After cutting everything out, assembling the boxes only took a few hours. Then, they were painted green, and after the city of Linn gave its final location approval, Massman was ready. He mounted the boxes on wooden posts placed in concrete to make a stable foundation. Each box has a “Little Free Library” charter sign/number with a unique number indicating what the boxes are and who made them so people can find them on the “Little Free Library” website world map or the mobile app.

“There is no cost to take a book, and people can donate books at any time without having to figure out when the library is open,” Massman said. “It is also helpful because anyone can look at the books at any time of day because the ‘Little Free Library’ is always open, so you don’t have to worry about getting there before it closes.”

Massman is happy that several friends and family members donated books to fill the boxes. “We had some books too, but once people found out what Stuart was trying to do, they showed up with donations,” Melissa said. 

Stuart added that the family will replenish the books as they are taken but hopes that others will consider donating books to help keep the boxes full. “People can take a book, read it, and then return it to the box as well,” he said, noting he’s not sure how many books can be stored at once. “It really depends on the type of book, whether it’s a hardback or paperback, that kind of thing.”

Massman said he was most pleased with completing the project. “I think that was the most rewarding aspect of the project because now people can use them,” he added.

The most challenging aspect was developing his leadership skills. “A lot of skilled people were helping build the project, but as the Eagle candidate, I had to lead them,” he said. “I’ve never really been a leader. I’m usually the one who is told what to do, and I do it. I don’t like being the leader by any means.”

Yet he persisted in his project, leading the way to complete both boxes in a short period.

During his time as a Scout, Massman earned 52 Merit Badges. He was also a member of the National Honor Society (traditional and Scouts), an FFA Chaplain and trap-shoot team member, and a 4-H Historian. He was previously the Troop 17 Senior Patrol Leader before aging out.

Massman attends St. George Catholic Church in Linn, is a CYO member, and is part of a youth group in Jefferson City. He plans to travel to Guatemala on a missionary trip with that group and, upon his return, work at a summer Scout camp at Lake of the Ozarks.

Massman also intends to show bacon at the Osage County Fair in July.

He plans to attend State Tech to study Precision Machining. 

Of all he’s accomplished, Massman said, “It gives me a sense of pride and gratitude to all the people that helped me, like my parents, Scoutmaster, and all the friends that I’ve made over the years. It just shows me that I can do things I could never have seen myself doing. When I first started Scouting, I didn’t really think about becoming an Eagle Scout because I really just wanted to be in it for the fun. That’s what Scouting was to me, but earning my Eagle tells me that it’s more than fun. It’s a lifestyle to live by the Scout Oath and Law and do the work to get Eagle. I encourage all Scouts, no matter what rank, to at least try to get there.”

Massman has applied to become the assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 17. Regardless of his plans outside of Scouting, he plans to remain involved at some level. “If I ever had kids, I will get them into Scouting too,” he added. “I think it’s a great way to learn new things and make great friends.”