There’s a new trend around town you may have noticed. Actually not just in our town, little libraries have been springing up all over North America in the past few years.
They’re little boxes that resemble big birdhouses usually sitting atop a small post in people’s front yards. They’re full of books. The idea being anyone can borrow one, and in turn they can leave books they’ve finished with for others to borrow.
It was a concept started five years ago in Wisconsin, when Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading.
Now these little free libraries are all over the world and it’s estimated there are 16,000 of them in 55 countries. There’s at least 30 in Winnipeg, a couple of which are in my neighbourhood.
There’s one on Dorchester Avenue between Harrow and Guelph that’s stocked and run by Gracie Sweetstory.
That name sounds almost too good to be true for a librarian. It is in fact the nom-de-plume of Heather Emberley, a budding author in addition to a librarian, as well as a CNC citizen reporter.
Emberley erected her library in honour of Isobel Grierson who was a mentor of hers.
She tells me it is extremely well used all day long and all night too. She was once awakened at 3 a.m. as some passing paramedics decided to check it out.
When I stopped by it seemed well stocked with some interesting titles including recent bestseller Dan Brown’s Inferno and classic Americana with Garrison Keillor’s Wobegone Boy.
There was another one on Oak Street that was started by Robert H. Smith School last summer. Unfortunately, it fell victim to vandalism when someone set fire to it in November.
Elementary school principal Tom Rossi tells me his students were disappointed but not deterred and the library will be back in the spring, possibly with a companion one on Ash Street.
It’s a simple idea and a great way to become more involved with your community. The boxes themselves are a small work of art and tend to follow Bol’s original design.
You can build your own or buy them from www.littlefreelibrary.org The latter is an organization actively promoting the proliferation of these little boxes. People who install them become known as stewards and can register and be listed on their world map of little libraries.
Once installed in your front yard, you’ll delight your neighbours who’ll stop by to browse your selection and even contribute books of their own. It’ll brighten up the area and help create the kind of community oriented neighbourhood that people crave; where neighbours get to know one another and stop to talk whilst improving their literary knowledge.
Always a gift, never for sale.
Stop at any one and have a look for any titles that interest you. Then feel free to take it home with you. No library card required, no due date, no fines.
Or pay it forward and leave some of your old books for someone else.