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Little free libraries enrich neighbourhoods

Take a book; leave a book. The joys of little free libraries are many.

Community library boxes are a labour of love to some and a great resource to many, especially those who may not be able to access or afford bookstores or bricks and mortar libraries. Unlike many services, these little boxes run totally on trust.

Common in communities around the world, a little free library is a no-charge, book-sharing box where anyone may take a book or share a book. They function on the honour system, and you do not need to share a book in order to take one. If you take a book or two from a little library, it is said, try to bring another book to share to that same library, or another in your area, whenever you can.

Rebazar Sorochan, who owns a free library box in Edmonton's McCauley neighbourhood, named his creation “Spruce Cone Library.”  Sorochan says he finds joy in hand-crafting the wood, shelves and decorations. And while the box is sometimes defaced by graffiti, or even emptied of books, Sorochan and his family maintain the little library is a loved and needed community resource.

"I've often found thank-you messages in the box, or notes saying “I owe you one book," he said. “Knowing someone is getting benefit makes it worth all the problems."

One such library box on the city's south side is a simple-looking yellow particle board cupboard, topped with roofing shingles with the word 'books' written on it. 

“People leave all kinds of things in there,” said the box owner, (name withheld). "But we’ve never had any vandalism or problems with the box.”

Joe Clare is said to be one of the first residents to start a little free library box in Edmonton. That box was built from a kit, complete with glass windows and designs and the web address, littlefreelibrary.com written on it. The site provides information on where to order library kits and even a contest that recognizes library stewards who go above and beyond to build community.

"These boxes are a great resource," said resident Sandra Hines. “I mostly bring books to put into it. It makes me happy to know someone is using my old books. It’s a bonus that it benefits others. Also, my grandkids always use the box when they come to visit.”

Many cities now see little free libraries throughout their communities. In Calgary, the Little Free Library Facebook page shows where anyone can take a book, or leave a book. Little free library proponents there (and everywhere) remind people how the boxes can build community by creating a neighbourhood gathering place; a chance to socialize and even recommend a book or two. As well, the initiative promotes reading and literacy for all ages, remind little free library lovers.

For those wanting more information on starting or maintaining a little free library, the resource littlefreelibrary.org has plenty of ideas and highlights the global impact of this free resource. The book 'Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds: 12 Miniature Structures You Can Build', at amazon.ca and local bookstores, also has information for those handy with a hammer and nail.

Sometimes, Senior community centres even offer woodworking shops for aspiring to do-it-yourselfers. Samm Smalley, of the West Edmonton Senior’s Centre, (780) 483-1209, says the centre has a large, fully equipped workshop where work can be safely stored. A $2.00 drop-in fee is charged for a full day in the woodworking shop. SAGE (SAGE Seniors Association) can also provide information on area woodworking shops (780)-423-5510.