Little Libraries of KW
Perhaps one day, while walking or driving through Kitchener-Waterloo, you noticed an odd sight: a medium-sized wooden structure standing near the street on someone’s lawn. Perhaps you wondered to yourself what that strange structure could be: Is it a birdhouse?
Is it a plain slab of wood? No, neither! What you’ve discovered is a phenomenon that’s spread throughout Kitchener-Waterloo and the broader Waterloo Region – and far, far beyond. What you’ve discovered is a Little Library.
If you’ve seen one of these structures anywhere in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, and the surrounding Townships, (and odds are you may have seen quite a few), then you’ve seen a ‘branch’ of the Little Libraries of Kitchener-Waterloo.
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Little Free Libraries
How did this all come about? Well, back in 2009, in the city of Hudson, Wisconsin, USA, a man by the name of Todd Bol had a project, an inspiration, a goal, and a dream. The project, at first, was just one Little Library designed and mounted on Todd Bol’s lawn, and filled with books for passersby to enjoy.
The inspiration was his mother – a school teacher who loved reading (the first, and indeed many Little Free Libraries, resemble tiny, one-room schoolhouses). The goal, eventually, was small-scale, but widespread Little Libraries that could be easily set up and maintained by volunteers on private property.
And the dream was to encourage and enable communities to share and cultivate a love of reading. The Little Free Library meant people could share books that were meaningful to them, while also having access to a variety of books at any given time.
The idea really took hold, spreading throughout Wisconsin and eventually spilling beyond the state lines. Todd Bol had Little Free Libraries officially incorporated and recognized as a non-profit organization in 2012. And since that time, it would be an understatement to say that Little Free Libraries have caught on.
Incredibly, there are currently Little Free Libraries in every US state, and in over 70 countries. Operating on the principle of ‘take a book, return a book,’ these small, wooden structures serve communities large and small, making it possible for young and old alike to find a new favourite book, or to share a book they love with someone else.
For lower-income families, getting access to books can be difficult; Little Free Libraries make it so that anyone can access a range of books, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And as Little Free Libraries spread through a community, with more and more volunteers setting up new structures and checking in on them once in a while, everyone stands to gain: millions of books pass through Little Free Libraries every year.
It seems like a simple idea on the surface, but Little Free Libraries really do deepen a community’s bonds, and bring a little bit of joy into everyone’s lives. Let’s return to our local version.
Little Libraries of Kitchener-Waterloo
Little Libraries of Kitchener-Waterloo (LLKW for short) isn’t an official organization – it’s just a group of people who believe in the Little Free Library project. They’ve highlighted four major reasons to support Little Free Libraries: they promote neighbourhood bonding (neighbours can exchange books and, afterwards, opinions).
They ensure books are immediately available (the public libraries here are fantastic, but they have set hours, for one thing, and only a few locations – Little Libraries are often close by, and they’re always open!).
They stand for the shared beliefs of LLKW and, indeed, the Waterloo Region generally (learning, literacy, education, and engagement are all major initiatives for the residents of Kitchener-Waterloo, and Little Libraries stand for each of them).
Finally, they promote personal engagement (because Little Libraries are set up on someone’s private property, it sends the message that we want to be an open, sociable community, and it enables ‘Little Library stewards’ to curate the types of books and ideas being shared, thus fostering discussion and engagement).
LLKW believes in the value of Little Free Libraries, and it wants to help spread them throughout the Waterloo Region and beyond. And all it takes is a quick look at the LLKW map to see that their efforts are working (see the map here).
Indeed, there are dozens and dozens of Little Libraries in Kitchener-Waterloo, spanning multiple neighbourhoods. There are even more if you zoom out to see Cambridge and the Townships. And the number of Little Libraries in Kitchener-Waterloo is only growing.
Perhaps you’ve read this, or seen a Little Library in person, and thought you might like to set up one of your own. Well, LLKW has got you covered!
Building Your Own
Little Libraries, though certainly less difficult to build and maintain than actual libraries (and Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, and Guelph have some pretty impressive libraries), do take a little bit of effort to erect. Because Little Libraries of Kitchener-Waterloo is a laidback, loose-knit group, there aren’t too many rules – you can make the Little Library of your dreams!
But if carpentry isn’t necessarily your forté, don’t worry: local carpenter Dave Keller designed two basic plans that you can see here. LLKW also has inexpensive kits available for purchase (around $60, cash only).
The kits include all the wood you’ll need (unfinished, pre-drilled pine), the materials for the Little Library (plexiglass windows, hinges, door latch and handle), and instructions. You’ll just need to get your own screws (1-3/4” and 2” #6) or alternative (glue and nails work), and if you want to design a fancy roof, whatever materials that requires (shingles, for example).
You’ll need the tools to build it, too, unless you head to a community build (which we will discuss shortly). Alternatively, you can pay an additional $65 to have an LLKW scout come and complete the whole project for you.
Finally, it’s a good idea to register with Little Free Libraries: this will put you on the official map, and get you a charter sign with your unique charter number (identifying you as part of the Little Free Library Sharing Network).
Registering costs $40 USD – find out more here and check out the impressive, international Little Free Library map here.
Events (and Community Builds)
Whether it’s meeting up for a social outing, or a community build, LLKW has several events (both official and unofficial) over the year. Coming up soon – on June 9th, 2018 – will be the first community build of the season, a team event at which 10 brand new Little Libraries will be built.
This build will take place between 9:30 am and 11:30 am at 1185 King Street North in St. Jacobs (Menno Martin Contractor). You can view the event announcement here. If you want one, sign up quickly!
Anyone with a love of reading should be able to see the inherent value in the Little Free Libraries project, and in Little Libraries of Kitchener-Waterloo’s mission. And to anyone who doesn’t yet have a love a reading: perhaps the next time you’re out for a walk or a drive, if you pass a Little Library – why not take a look?
It’s free, and you might find something great. You can learn more, and engage with the LLKW community, on their Facebook page here.
Written by Will Kummer