Little Free Library
Gone are the days when libraries were the haunts of bookworms alone. Today, the library is considered not only a meeting place but also something that represents what a city stands for — the value it places on creativity, innovation, and knowledge. While
Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, started the first Little Free Library (LFL) in 2009. He built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher who loved reading. Bol filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbours and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away. Each one featured a sign that read “Free Books.”
Juliann Castell and her son Jack brought the LFL movement to Ottawa in 2014. Juliann read an article in O magazine about the international campaign, and her son Jack used the concept as a woodworking project to earn a Boy Scouts carpentry badge. The result is a shoebox-sized lending space run on the honour system without fees or memberships. “People can take a book or leave a book,” says Juliann. “It is a great way to help build community and get to know your neighbour.” Jack says his friends at Turnbull School like the idea. “They think it’s pretty cool because you get to share something that is real.”
Together with Rick Brooks, a community development educator with a background in social marketing, Bol and other LFL champions set out to build 2,510 LFLs — as many as American philanthopist and library advocate Andrew Carnegie — by 2014. It is estimated that there are now over 25,000 LFLs in dozens of countries across the globe (see the map at littlefreelibrary.org). Toronto boasts 34 and Vancouver 16; Montreal has but one. Including the Castells’ Little Free Library in Alta Vista, Ottawa has four registered locations and an unregistered location on Strathcona Avenue.
“It has definitely taken off,” says Juliann. “And it looks like it is going to spread.” Their Facebook page, which Jack maintains, has over 130 “Likes” — as well as many questions from people interested in starting their own. Since its opening last year, the Castells’ LFL has become part of the neighbourhood. People even come out in the winter. Jack expects to see more LFLs popping up in Ottawa this summer. “It is a lot of fun,” he says.
Bookended Jack Castell and his mom, Juliann Castell, worked together to build this Little Free Library in front of their Ottawa home