So what's new at the Empire Elementary School library these days? The book "Mr. Popper's Penguins" by Richard and Florence Atwater for one and 14-year-old Eagle Scout candidate Alex Updegrove's bold, new, custom-designed reading loft for another.
Alex, a 10th-grader at Carson High School and member of Boy Scout Troop 341, turned the screws on a dedication plaque midday Wednesday in front of about 30 excited fourth-graders and school librarian Betty Hollman.
The five-sided structure, designed entirely by Alex, features a wooden ladder leading up to the reading loft (not a gymnasium loft, as Hollman quickly reminds her vibrant students) with colorful beanbags and a view that fourth-grader Cody Lee, reading a book about snowboarding, described as making his classmates "look really, really tiny."
Classmate Leticia Echeverria, engrossed in a book on monsters, said the loft "makes reading even more fun."
The loft is stained a light brown and certified to hold up to a 165 pounds.
Building it was a challenge.
"At first, the area was just a bunch of plants and wood chips and stuff," Alex said. Digging it out, he expected to find concrete but ran into nothing but dirt. "I ended up having to pour the foundation myself."
Eight months in the making, Alex had assistance from fellow Boy Scouts and a helpful school custodial staff, including head maintenance man, Lee Supounch.
"They were really cool about helping out," said Alex.
Lowe's, Blue Mountain Steel, Roger's Carpet, Sign Pro; Kevin, Sarah and Andrew Hill, all chipped in to sponsor the project, coming up with the more than $1,000 worth of cash and building materials the structure took to complete. From nails to carpet, the community came through for both Alex and the children of Empire Elementary School.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is a performance-based achievement, with only about 4 percent of all Boy Scouts putting in the necessary dedication and effort to make the cut. Alex, an "A" student and holder of 26 merit badges, put untold hours into the loft, and says he thinks he wants to become an architect.
Still, he said he's "glad it's over."
Alex said he looks forward to doing more community work and plans to stay with the Scouts as a volunteer when he gets older.
As a banner running across the library wall quietly agreed, "You are the author of your own life story."
Contact Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.