This weekend we went on a scavenger hunt of sorts, on the quest for Little Free Libraries in our neighbourhood. Trekking up and down streets we’ve never explored, we followed tips from neighbours, leading us from one library to the next.
Each Little Free Library is unique, its exterior – and contents – personalized by the library steward (as the owners are called). If you have no idea what I’m talking about, look carefully the next time you drive through your own neighbourhood and you’ll probably spot what looks like a large birdhouse or odd-looking mailbox on someone’s lawn, one or two steps off the sidewalk. Go ahead – open the door and have a peek.
Little Free Libraries are exactly that – little cupboards full of free books. Readers can take a book and leave one in exchange. The 17 (seventeen!) libraries we discovered in our neighbourhood were all pretty full, sometimes heavy on romance, or westerns, or sci-fi.
Yes, there were a few dusty old tomes that crept out of somebody’s basement in the hopes of finding refuge for another three decades, but we also found lots of new bestsellers and – my favourite – children’s books. From Dr. Seuss board books to graphic novels, every Little Free Library we found offered a few books for young readers.
And some libraries, like the new one at the Haysboro Community Centre (okay, not my neighbourhood, but still worth the visit), cater to kids. I hope a young reader enjoys Salamander Rescue – and shares it by leaving it in another library for someone else to find.
Some Little Free Libraries offer unique features, like Christmas lights, a guest book, or even a dog hook, so your pup doesn’t wander off while you peruse the collection.
The number of Little Free Libraries in my neighbourhood seems to be growing weekly. Bike Calgary has created a map of locations, though I imagine it must be tough to keep up. And not all are registered with the Little Free Library non-profit organization in Wisconsin. Registration will provide an official charter sign and charter number for your library – and you can add your location to the world map, joining nearly 40,000 Little Free Libraries in more than 70 countries around the world.
The idea for the Little Free Libraries originated in Wisconsin in 2009, when a fellow named Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse in tribute to his mother, a teacher and book-lover. He put it on a post in his front yard, filled it with books and, like chickadees to a bird feeder, readers came.
In Calgary, Little Free Libraries are everywhere, outside businesses, schools, community centres, and even a plus 15.
If you’re looking for a fun Christmas gift, how about a family project: a Little Free Library kit! The wood is precut, hardware is included, and the library is already registered with a charter number. My kids are past the Christmas morning puzzle, doodle art, and even Lego stage, but I think a project involving power tools might just get their attention! This is a project our whole family will love.