Little libraries bind community together

NANAIMO – Project involves various community groups.

Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Nanaimo Harbourfront librarian Jen Seper holds a book behind the door of a little library on Vancouver Avenue. VIRL has partnered with the City of Nanaimo and a number of community organizations to create a network of little libraries throughout Nanaimo.

Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Nanaimo Harbourfront librarian Jen Seper holds a book behind the door of a little library on Vancouver Avenue. VIRL has partnered with the City of Nanaimo and a number of community organizations to create a network of little libraries throughout Nanaimo.

Over the past five weeks, 15 little wooden bookshelves have sprouted up throughout the Harbour City.

The bookshelves are sheltered, decorated, filled with books and can be found on streets such as Country Hills Drive, Vancouver Avenue and Lewis Road.

The wooden bookshelves are part of an ongoing community book exchange project dubbed Little Libraries.

“They are meant to be a meeting place and a community builder and a conversation starter in neighbourhoods,” says Nanaimo Harbourfront librarian Jen Seper, who was involved with the project.

The Little Libraries project is the combined effort of a number of local organizations such as the Vancouver Island Regional Library, Vancouver Island University, Rotary Club of Nanaimo North and the City of Nanaimo.

Sometimes referred to as neighbourhood book exchanges or pop-up libraries, the little libraries function on a no-charge honour system. Many of the books inside the libraries have been donated by VIRL.

“You can come and take a book or if you have a book that you think someone else would enjoy you can put it in the bookcase,” Seper said.

The 15 pop-up libraries involved in the project are maintained by residents.

“For each library there is a household that is sort of in charge of it,” Seper said. “But ultimately it is the community’s [responsibility].”

Pop-up libraries have become popular in communities across North America in recent years.

“Lots of communities are doing it,” she said. “Not very often is it affiliated with the public library.”

Nanaimo has a few other pop-up libraries, including one on Irwin Street, that are not part of the Little Libraries project. In some cases, the pop-up libraries, including one on Sunset Drive, are affiliated with a Wisconsin-based organization called Little Free Library.

Although the pop-up libraries are part of the Little Libraries project involving VIRL, they are not owned or operated by the library.

“They don’t belong to the library,” Seper said. “They belong to the neighbourhood.”

Seper says that the city played a big role in deciding where the pop-up libraries were placed, adding that it was important to have them in high-traffic areas.

“We tried to spread them out through different neighbourhoods,” she said. “We tried to pick locations where there is a lot of walk-by traffic, so it would get used a lot.”

The Little Libraries were constructed by members of the rotary club and decorated by students at the High School at VIU.

Seper says that while the project took some time to put together, it has been a great community effort.

“It is all about community partnership,” she said.

Since the first pop-up library was installed back in August, Seper says there has been demand from the public.

“We are hoping to be able to go ahead with more,” she said. “We actually have a wait list of people who would like one in their neighbourhood.”

For more information on the Little Libraries project please visit www.virl.bc.ca or call 250-753-1154. To view a map of the 15 Little Libraries, see below.

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