Little Libraries And Big Communities
If you walk through many neighbourhoods in Kitchener and Waterloo, you may have started to notice something out of the ordinary.
Little boxes on posts, that look like a strange combination of a mail box and a little bird house. Sometimes they have a little window on the door that lets you peek inside. What you find on closer examination, are books. Lots of books!
Little Libraries, as they are called, are a simple idea. In the words of the online hub that evangelises them they are:
[A] “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!
Locally you can go to Little Libraries of KW (here) to find out a few of the other little libraries. They have a great map that will help you locate one close to where you live as well as tips, plans and encouragement if you want to make your own!
Community Connections at Sunnydale
On October 16, a Little Library was officially opened in the Sunnydale community in Waterloo. Sunnydale’s Little Library is situated in a Waterloo Region Housing complex in which House of Friendship, Sunnydale Community Association and Waterloo Region Housing partner to operate the Sunnydale Community Centre.
Built by Jane Mitchell, Waterloo resident and Region of Waterloo Councillor, the Little Library has already seen many books come and go. In the picture shared above, a young girl is seen choosing a book, with Jane’s encouragement. Linda K, Program Supervisor of the Sunnydale Community Centre, shared that “located next to a busy community side walk, many area residents will pass and enjoy it each day. On behalf of the Sunnydale community, thank you Jane!”
The Library on Charles Street
The little library in front of the Men’s Hostel had a really strange/great beginning and reason for creating, says Brandon S. of Supportive Housing.
“There was a unique group of people that I had gotten to know that seemed to be intercepting at the same time. There was a woman from one of the shelters that had seen one and wanted one near her area where she moved to. Then there was a few guys who were (in the past) looking for ways of using their painting/construction skills that were asked to help alongside Scott (of the maintenance department). There was also some men at the shelter that had been having some informal conversations with me about missing the times in their life where they would discuss ideas and literature and they wanted to do something to move towards that in some way.”
“I think for me my initial reason for wanting to do it was twofold. I’d been thinking about literacy and literature in low income populations, specifically how sparse these were and yet how meaningful they are when cultivated a bit. I’d also been thinking through some ideas around ‘fear of the other’ and how people can often pass by the shelter with heads down, scared of perceived things and assumptions around the men. I was hoping to be part of creating something that the men could use, could cause community members to stop/ maybe have conversation with people they normally wouldn’t interact with, and for these community members to also have access to books in a different way.”
“I don’t really have any interesting stories besides being surprised by how the guys take care of it, no vandalism, books tend to flow in and out well. It’s been neat to see the occasional passer-by stop and read the box, sometimes chatting with someone there, often just taking a millisecond break from a busy walk to work or school. Sometimes little things would catch me off guard like one of the guys repairing the bird house on top or another man closing the door of the box so that snow wouldn’t go in.”
Cynthia, a front line worker at the Hostel, adds that, “we all think the idea of sharing with anyone and everyone in the community is a really interesting concept. You never know who took a book or who dropped a new one off. I find that the men like to share a book with each other and I try and encourage them to put them in the box after they are done to share with others in the community as well. We have also worked on creating a larger library here at the hostel, and the men seem to enjoy it. Its a nice quiet and comfortable space with a couch that men respect as the quiet space at the hostel.”
The Power of Ideas
Little Libraries are a great example of the impact of a simple action that one person can do, to spur creativity, encourage sharing and get people reading! Do you have a little library experience that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments!