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

Ottawa Magazine - - This City - By John Ak­pata


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 lit­tle­freel­i­ 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

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