Harry Ward

Neighbourhood libraries help bind community

NANAIMO – Community bookcases take literacy promotion to the streets.

There’s a case to be made that community bookcases springing up around town are binding community with books.

The concept is simple: create a small bookcase, place it on a street or alleyway and fill it with books, which neighbours or any passerby can pick up, read and exchange.

The first community bookcase in Nanaimo was set up on Irwin Street in 2008. It was a South End Community Association initiative to get neighbours interacting and foster a sense of community.

Since then several more have sprung up. The most recent was Saturday morning when the Brechin Hill Community Association held an opening ceremony for its first community bookcase on Belford Avenue.

Michele Hillier, community literacy outreach coordinator for Nanaimo and Ladysmith, said the concept started in Bonn, Germany, in about 2002, when someone won an award for putting out a quirky little case with free books.

“In 2009, Little Free Library, which is in the [U.S.], was formed and there’s at least 15,000 people who are members of that,” Hillier said.

The organization maps community bookcases set up around the world and provides locations and information about them as a way to promote literacy.

“The one out at Sunset Drive, in north Nanaimo, has joined Little Free Library,” Hillier said.

There are currently six community bookcases set up around Nanaimo. All community bookcases are handmade and unique.

The book exchange works strictly on a give-a-book, take-a-book honour system.

Hillier said there have so far been no issues with people stuffing the boxes with business, political or religious promotion material, nor have any of the bookcases been vandalized.

“What we find is people actually put flowers in our bookcase,” Hillier said. “I came by one day and there was a little vase of flowers in there.”

Hillier sees the bookcases as a great vehicle for promoting literacy, something she has a passion for.

For more information, please visit http://littlefreelibrary.org/.

For help finding literacy-related support services in Nanaimo, please contact Wendy Chapplow at Literacy Central Vancouver Island at 250-745-8988 or visit www.literacycentralvi.org/.

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