You may have spotted one on your daily walk or while driving through your neighbourhood — little boxes and homes for books located in parks, businesses or at the ends of front yards.
These Little Free Libraries are dotted around Greater Victoria and have just received their 10,000th book donation earlier this month. They operate on the “leave a book, take a book” principle and are run by volunteers and businesses who maintain the little libraries and top them up when needed.
“It’s an amazing network of people who have built their own libraries around town,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a volunteer and board member of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network.
Phelps Bondaroff personally made the 10,000th donation to the Little Free Library located in Saanich’s Rutledge Park. He became involved with the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network — a local organization that maintains these libraries — after hearing about their 2015 project to map out the locations of the libraries.
Using crowd-sourcing and social media, Phelps Bondaroff was able to map out 111 libraries in 2017. That number rose to 150 in time for Canada’s sesquicentennial.
The Greater Victoria Placemaking Network that has set up several Little Free Libraries through the Pocket Places Project. The project received a grant from the City of Victoria, which helped raise awareness about the libraries and allowed people to top them up with books as well as learn to make their own.
Phelps Bondaroff said many people recycle old newspaper boxes into the Little Free Libraries, making it easy for anyone to build one. The Greater Victoria Placemaking Network has thousands of books in storage that they pull out to top up libraries when needed. Phelps Bondaroff said he tries to top some up when he is running errands or out on his bike.
The 10,000th book donation was the aptly-titled science-fiction book, Meditations at 10,000 Feet by James Trefil. Getting to the 10,000th book involved 587 visits to individual libraries and over 630 volunteer hours.
For Phelps Bondaroff, the project is a way to build community.
“I meet and speak with the most interesting people whenever I visit the Little Free Libraries around town,” Phelps Bondaroff said. “Community and connections need space to flourish, and that’s what placemaking is all about.”
Some of the Little Free Libraries also have their own Twitter accounts and connect with other international ones online.
— RutledgeLibrary (@RutledgeParkLFL) July 6, 2019
Phelps Bondaroff, who is a political scientist by trade, said he enjoys the whimsy that things like Little Free Libraries bring to communities. He notes that they can bring people together and bring joy to people’s lives.
“I feel like the hard edges of the city often need to be softened to make them more human and placemaking does that,” Phelps Bondaroff said.
There are now a total of 243 Little Free Libraries in the Capital Regional District, giving Greater Victoria the highest density of Little Free Libraries in Canada. The Greater Victoria Placemaking Network is encouraging the public to visit a Little Free Library near them, drop off some books they’ve read and find something new.
“The amount of placemaking being done in Victoria is inspiring,” Phelps Bondaroff said. “While we await the installation of the region’s 250th Little Free Library, it’s extraordinary to consider that the 150th was only installed in Dec. 2017.”
A map of Little Free Libraries in the CRD can be found here.