There is something about Kitchener-Waterloo that makes this area a great place to live and that is the feeling of community that is really at the heart of our hometown. Set aside the good location, excellent schools, thriving economy and all the other excellent features of Kitchener-Waterloo just for a moment and you’ll see the real reason people are flocking here. It’s the people. This feeling of a close-knit community comes from many different sources and you can see it in the little ways we bring people together. One way you can see how this community strives to connect and interact is through the abundance of Little Free Libraries.
What is a Little Free Library?
The Little Free Library movement began as a tribute to a mother who was also a teacher and book lover. Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a little model of a one-room schoolhouse to honor his mom, an avid reader and former school teacher. He filled it with books and displayed it on a post in his front yard. Soon friends and neighbors were asking for their own versions so he built a few more and made signs that read “free books”.
Bol’s little work of love was seen by Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison when he and Bol were discussing potential social enterprises. Inspired by people like Andrew Carnegie, who built over 2,500 free public libraries, the idea of making these small book collections into something much bigger soon took flight. It’s now a world-wide movement promoting literacy and a life-long love of reading though their over 25,000 locations.
The idea is pretty simple and it borrows heavily from the travelling libraries of the late 1800s as well as the more recent trend of “take one, leave one” book collections in coffee shops, hotels and other gathering places. A Little Free Library is just a waterproof box filled with books and mounted where it is accessible to the public. Anyone can take a book to read and they are encouraged to leave one (or more) behind for someone else to enjoy. A notebook is typically placed inside the box and readers can leave their thoughts on titles they’ve found within. This creates an ever-changing array of books and encourages the interaction of readers. Many Little Free Library hosts find that they get to know their neighbors and community members as they stop to peruse the box’s contents or make a contribution to the collection.
How do I get a Little Free Library for my Neighbourhood in Kitchener-Waterloo?
You can build your own Little Free Library (creativity is highly encouraged but make sure it is water/weatherproof) or you can order one here from the Little Libraries of KW. A one-time fee of around $50 will get you everything you need and you can choose the “gable” or the “shed” style. Another great resource in Waterloo Region is the Little Library KW Facebook group that you can join. You can find it here.
Once the box is built, just put in some books you’ve enjoyed and watch what happens! You could promote the new Little Free Library location in community newsletters or with handouts to nearby neighbors and share on your Facebook. Many neighbourhoods in Kitchener-Waterloo have Facebook pages; this is one of the best ways to inform residents. It won’t take much publicity to get the ball rolling because people will tell their neighbours too!
What is a charter number and why do I need it?
The charter number is your official entry on the Little Free Library World Map. This interactive listing of chartered Little Free Libraries helps people find the more than 25,000 locations world-wide. People who are interested in finding your Little Free Library will look to this map for guidance. You can provide your latitude and longitude location (GPS location) or a street address for your box. The map also gives a little “bio” on the steward(s) and why they’ve chosen to host a Little Free Library on their property. All of the information you need to get your Little Library registered can be found on their website located at http://littlefreelibrary.org.
How does a Little Free Library contribute to building community?
Anything that gets people talking will help bring them together. What gets people talking faster than a good book? You’ll get to see and meet people stopping to sift through the box’s contents or dropping off their own contributions. You can share your favorite reads and see what you have in common with your neighbors. These little collections of books become a touch-point for a neighborhood and a great way for kids to learn to appreciate books.
Are there any Little Free Libraries in Kitchener-Waterloo?
The Kitchener-Waterloo area is something of a “hotbed” for Little Free libraries! There are over 20 locations in the immediate Kitchener-Waterloo area plus more in Guelph, Cambridge, Fergus and Stratford. As people see how much fun it can be to steward and patronize a Little Free Library, you can expect more and more to crop up. Here is a list of locations in Kitchener-Waterloo http://llkw.ca/honour-roll/. CBC Kitchener-Waterloo also has a map of Little Libraries.
Something so small really does have an impact on the quality of life in a community. If you are considering moving to Kitchener-Waterloo, check out how friendly, welcoming and engaging our residents are through these Little Libraries.