It may only take an hour and a half to build a little free library, but the community that builds around it lasts for years to come.
“A lot of individuals may not have known who lived in the house three doors down, but now they’re seeing them come out to check out their Little Free Library and exchange books,” says Kathleen Williams, Winnipeg Public Library’s Administrative Coordinator of Community Outreach and Marketing.
“[Community building] is a big goal of the Little Free Library organization – getting to know your neighbour and having those conversations with each other.”
Little Free Libraries are book exchanges set up throughout cities that anyone can borrow a book from or add a book to.
The idea started in Wisconsin in 2009 and has spread all around the world. The first Little Free Libraries in Winnipeg appeared around 2011.
The Winnipeg Public Library held two Build Days at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex last October. Build Days help Little Free Libraries get in neighbourhoods that are under-served and don’t necessarily have access to a local public library. With the help of library staff and volunteers, 11 soon-to-be stewards assembled their very own Little Free Libraries in approximately an hour and a half.
Lovemore Malounga, a Build Day participant living in Winnipeg’s West End, was inspired to become a steward after he saw a Little Free Library while walking in Wolseley.
“We realized that in our area, where we live, we don’t have a library like that one,” says Mr. Malounga. “We thought it would be a great idea for the community.”
The selection of books circulating at a Little Free Library is often influenced by the community it serves. Each of the Build Day participants received a starter bag of books, including all eight selections from the On the Same Page book club. Ms. Williams also noted some Build Day stewards were planning to add books in Filipino and Indigenous languages.
Little Free Libraries can take on different shapes and sizes, and anyone can build one on their own if they so choose.
“Some of them are re-purposed cabinets for instance that people have weatherproofed and put outside,” Ms. Williams says. “Some people have [reused] old newspaper boxes which are designed to be weatherproof.”
Winnipeg is now home to more than 70 Little Free Libraries, including one in West Broadway that is inside of a cored-out elm tree, another in North Kildonan that has a built-in bench, and a couple that are inspired by science-fiction franchises like Star Wars and Doctor Who.
To locate a Little Free Library in your neighbourhood, check out the map on the Winnipeg Public Library’s website at wpl.winnipeg.ca. You can also find out more about the Little Free Library initiative at littlefreelibrary.org