Isn't she delightful?
I can't remember where I first heard about Little Free Libraries. But once I discovered them, I was immediately charmed and knew that I needed to become an LFL Steward. I somehow roped Rosemary into going along with my crazy scheme.
In fact, it was Rosemary who noticed a sign in our neighbourhood that advertised the Vancouver Foundation's Neighbourhood Small Grants program. Amazingly, we still had a little time before the deadline. We applied and were given a grant. Wohoo! Now, we are not handy, carpentry-lovin' ladies (surprising because we do like wearing flannel). And, we wanted our LFL to look good - not like blind sloths assembled it with their pointy toes. So we ordered one from the LFL folks in the US. And thanks to our Seattle friends Jen & Sara (because LFL doesn't ship their ready-made libraries to Canada) who took delivery of the giant box for us, we were able to get the super-cute Red London Phone Booth design.
We then enlisted our good friend, Darach, from FarmCity Food Garden Construction to help us (i.e. let us watch while he did all the work) install the post to support the library. Then our incredibly nice, friendly, adorable neighbour, Jesse, helped us (i.e. again, let us watch while he did all the work) attach the library to the pole the next day. (OMG, Jesse is the nicest young man ever - he does his mother proud).
We'd been saving up books for a while. We've held a few book swaps with friends plus recently done a cull of our own library, so we have about 4 boxes of books. I was actually worried that this wouldn't be enough for the short term. What if everyone just took books and no one donated books? Well this was an unfounded fear. Less than 24 hours after the initial stocking of our LFL's shelves, we had a few book donations. And today, less than a week after its opening, of the 2 dozen books on the shelves, only 2 of them are our original contributions. Plus, I've got another box inside with overflow. Amazing.
I put a Guest Book in the library - a tip I learned from another LFL Steward (this one in Manitoba). I'm so touched by the little notes people leave. These are a couple of my favourites.
We've even had media visit. Andrea from CBC Radio's Early Edition came by last Thursday (before we were even officially open) and interviewed us. That interview is *hopefully* being aired tomorrow (Thursday, July 18) and will be available on their webpage.
If you're not familiar with Little Free Libraries, the concept is straight-forward - a place where people in a community (whether you live, work, go to school or just pass through regularly) can share their favourite books. If you put a book in the library, you're lending it out into the world. Some will come back (we've already seen two come back and go out again - amazing!) but most won't. But you are sharing something you love with people around you. It's pretty profound.
I actually find the whole LFL movement pretty profound. People build these libraries for various reasons, but often they are a memorial to a loved one (human or animal). Below is a great video about LFLs in Seattle (Northern Voice goers will notice a familiar face - Nancy White talks about her LFL). It's short - about 4.5 minutes. Worth watching. There is a longer documentary about LFLs here - it's about 12 minutes. Also worth watching when you have the time. There is even an LFL Film Festival going on right now where other LFL Stewards have shared their stories.
Over the last week, as I've gone out in the morning to restock the shelves or when I'm out tending our boulevard garden, I've talked with several people who stopped to check out our little red library. Most are charmed and delighted; only two thought we were installing an analog phone. I love listening to the comments as they scan through the books "Oh, that looks good." or "I have a couple of books that would be PERFECT! I'll bring them by tomorrow." And just now, I ran into a mom with her two girls "My older one saw this yesterday and wanted to come back today to share a book of hers."
I don't want to be too sappy or mystical or weepy. But it is more than just a box of books. It connects people - across geography and culture and other barriers of our own crafting. I am humbled every time I go out and see a new note or a new book. Our Little Free Library is one of the best things I have ever done.
So, if you're in East Van, please stop by. And a special plea to people with kids - if you have even one or two books for kids (under 10) that you could donate, please leave a comment or send me a message via our Facebook page. I literally just finished telling a 5 year old girl that we would have books for her "soon". She was upset because there was a book for her teenage sister but not her. I'm going to try to hit a few yard sales or used book stores, but if you have any, please let me know and I will come get them.
And, if you're a LFL Steward in Canada, please leave a comment. I'm going to be pulling together a list of all the LFLs (official and unofficial) in Canada. LittleFreeLibrary.org has a map, but not an easy-to-scan list and not with all the social properties. Several of these libraries have great FB pages or other social sites. I want to pull them all together in one easy to scan & search location. Watch for details about "LFL Canucks" coming soon.