Clifton Improvement Association’s “Little Free Library”

CIA's Little Free Library

CIA’s Little Free Library

Who doesn’t love to relax, outdoors or in, with a good book? Finding your next read just became a little easier with the unveiling of the Clifton Improvement Association’s (CIA) new Little Free Library.

Built into the just-completed shed in the parking lot on the corner of Atlantic and Seaview Avenues, adjacent to Beach Bluff Park at Preston Beach, this not-so-little library features a variety of books for children, teens and adults. Visitors are encouraged to stop by and pick up a book, returning it when finished or bringing something else to share.

The Little Free Library movement started in 2009 and has become hugely popular worldwide. “It seemed like a perfect fit for this location,” said Kristen Nyberg, the CIA member who brought the idea to the board a year ago. “It’s a great way for friends and neighbors to swap their latest favorites—and very convenient if you finish your current book while on the beach or your kids need a distraction.”

It wasn’t a straightforward idea to implement, however. The library was originally planned as a small cabinet on a post, but zoning laws prevented the addition of a second freestanding structure on the property. CIA Vice President Sheryl Levenson came up with the brilliant idea to combine the project with the existing storage shed, which was in dire need of repair.

Architect and board member Bruce Greenwald designed a new shed using the same size footprint as the old one, incorporating a cabinet into the side of the building to serve as a library. The Little Free Library will be open throughout the year, with doors closed only when required by inclement weather.

The CIA is extremely grateful for the hours and expertise donated by Bruce Greenwald as architect and Sheryl Levenson as tireless project manager. The board would also like to thank Gilbert and Cole Building Products for help with supplies, Sequoia Builders of Lynn for assistance in building and hauling, and Swampscott resident Chet Derr, who spent untold hours handcrafting the building’s details, from shingles to cabinetry. Finally, Steve Tseki and the Friends of Abbot Public Library were generous in donating the books that currently fill the Little Library’s shelves.

About the Clifton Improvement Association

The Clifton Improvement Association (CIA) was originally established in 1934 as a neighborhood organization. In 1996, the IRS granted tax-exempt status to the CIA due to its new community mission.

Over the years, generous benefactors donated parcels of land to the organization. The parking lot in Marblehead was donated by five families in 1945. The sea-side Beach Bluff Park, in Swampscott, was donated by the family of John and Ruth Blodgett in 1997. These two properties tie the communities of Swampscott and Marblehead together and welcome visitors from near and far, providing comfortable access to the beach and views of the sea.

A new seawall, costing $225,000 was built after the existing cement wall was destroyed in the winter of 2007. In 2010, a swale of rocks was installed to extend the seawall, accept the winter waves and wash them back into the sea. The funds for both the Sun Circle and the seawall were raised through private donations, generously given by the community to further the visions of those who have donated the land.

The mission of the CIA is to preserve, protect and improve the scenic, historic and natural character of local open and public spaces through information, education, and advocacy. The CIA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Visit for more information.