Little Free Libraries are becoming a big story in Port Coquitlam.
You may have seen one: small, whimsically designed, freestanding book boxes located in parks, playgrounds — or even in somebody’s yard — that invite community members to “take one, give one.”
Lori Nick of PoCo’s Terry Fox Library began researching the Little Free Library movement a few years ago. It turns out there’s a website (littlefreelibrary.org) dedicated to the subject that offers building tips, maps of small libraries around the world, links to blogs on the subject and more. There are even pages dedicated to Little Free Library design on Pinterest and Flickr.
There are now around 36,000 worldwide, including one at Castle Park that Nick helped create in 2015 with a small grant from the Tri-Cities Literacy Committee and some help from her handy husband, John. She stocked it with a reading inventory curated from book sales and Value Village.
The community reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve had some really nice comments,” said Nick, who has created a Facebook page for her Little Free Library at Castle Park.
One Facebook comment reads: “Love this library for my granddaughters when they come to visit and for myself! The girls think it is really neat to go to the play park and then take home story books for a bedtime read!”
Nick said kids’ books go fast. “Which is good. One of the most important things for developing literacy is book ownership. This could start them off with their collection.”
Book-browsing parents also offer positive reinforcement to their kids, she said.
Along with encouraging literacy, the small libraries also build community.
“I think it’s great for the community to get together and share their favourite reads,” she said, noting the mini libraries become a community meeting spot.
Soon, there will be more in PoCo.
The city and the Tri-Cities Early Childhood Development Committee have partnered to establish five new little libraries in Citadel Heights and Mary Hill, with help from PoCo Building Supplies, which is supporting the projects through supplies and building support.
Nick said it’s great to have more small libraries around pre-schools and elementary schools so kids can have greater access to books, especially in the summer, when their school libraries are closed and they might not be able to make it to the public library.
She says the kids might be playing at the park, see a book they like and take it home and keep up their reading skills so they won’t be rusty when they return to class in September.
The new Little Free Library locations are:
• Bailey Court (Citadel Heights, close to Castle Park, off Confederation);
• Settlers Park (close to Hazel Trembath elementary);
• Una and Tina Way (Mary Hill);
• 1854 Western Drive (close to Mary Hill elementary);
• and Shaughnessy and Lobb Avenue (close to Central elementary).
Other Little Free Libraries already in PoCo include the corner of Dominion and Ottawa on the north side and Kiddies Korner Pre-school at Prairie and Shaughnessy. The most recent little library that was unveiled this week on Lafleur at the home of artist Diane Moran.
Moran has a long history of sharing books with communities. For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she arranged to ship 4,000 books to a school in Louisiana that she later visited. When Hurricane Sandy struck the U.S. east coast, she organized another book shipment for a hard-hit school.
This Christmas, she asked her husband, Ron Laidman, to build her a little library for their yard. It took some time but he built her a beautiful, all-metal mini book library that pays homage to PoCo’s first librarian, Annette Lafleur, for whom their street is named.
“I’ve already seen people take books,” she said, excitedly. “It’s just kind of an addition to the community feeling.”