COLUMN: Little Free libraries take over the world

Staff member Melodie Rae Storey doesn’t leave the library behind when she goes home. That’s because she has her own library.

Friedl Milner (left) and Mary Carne browse the selection at Melodie Rae’s little free library. 

Staff member Melodie Rae Storey doesn’t leave the library behind when she goes home. That’s because she has her own library, perched on a tree at the end of her North Shore driveway. It has two shelves and is stocked with an ever-changing selection of books.

“The library was a Christmas gift from my dad,” Melodie told me. “People are welcome to take a book, and not feel obligated to bring something in return. The idea is to share resources, foster community and get books into people’s lives.”

I recently received an email from an acquaintance with a photo showing a girl called Gabby opening the door to a free library the size on an outhouse: four shelves and the words “Our Little Free Library” over the top. On the side, the words “Sssshhhaaaare!” Annie, who sent the email, lives in Kaslo but hails from Newfoundland. She doesn’t say where the library is, but maybe it doesn’t matter. It’s about the idea.

There’s a free library movement out there, and it’s worldwide. Some folks make their own, but an organization in the US aims to make it easy for anyone to spread the booklove around.

Littlefreelibrary.org makes small, waterproof, tree-perchable “libraries”. Styles range from Amish Barn to British Phone Booth; they are creative and cute and I can imagine the folks in the organization chortling over them with glee. Little Free Library ships these out to folks not quite as handy as Melodie’s dad — and they’re free; they fund their work through donations. Once set up, you can register on the site and add your library to the map.

When LFL began in 2010, their aim was to see 2,509 little free libraries go up worldwide—the same number of free libraries that philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built around the turn of the last century. By January of this year, site-registered Little Free Libraries numbered 25,000.

Little free libraries are about more than reading and sharing books. Just like a regular library, they’re about community. At the Nelson Public Library, folks come to borrow items and access resources, but they also come to enjoy programs for kids, teens, and adults, study, and meet their neighbours.

Libraries like Melodie Rae’s can also be a social meeting point — as it was when her neighbours Mary Carne and Friedl Milner, who dropped by one winter afternoon to browse for a book and catch up on news. It has to be fun to see folks enjoying your library, and each other.

There are all sorts of “little free libraries” in our community. Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy’s “Books Everywhere!” program places book bins in all sorts of places around town, from your local coffee shop to your local museum. Anyone can take a book to read and return, or just keep.

The Nelson Public Library regularly stocks free book boxes at the Nelson Food Cupboard, Our Daily Bread, and Stepping Stones, as well as the Nelson Police Department. You never know when a book will change your life — or at least help you pass the time. We like to spread the booklove around, too.

The Nelson Public Library aims to be as neighbourly as the little-library-at-the-end of your drive, even if you do have to have a card to actually take that book home. Nelson library staff people are your guides to finding whatever you need to find. Even without a library card, materials are always free to use on site, where the chairs are comfy and the space is friendly. We regularly see folks enjoying our library, and each other.

Need a book or a neighbourly chat? There are more ways than ever to find both.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.

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