This spring marks the fifth anniversary of the arrival in Port Moody of our first Little Free Library. For the uninitiated, these mini- libraries are actually weatherproof boxes mounted on front lawns or in parks, capable of holding a couple of dozen books. The instructions for use are simple – “take one, leave one”
I think they are a charming addition to the local landscape, and I’ve been an occasional user ever since the first one popped up on San Remo drive, using the box to purge my bookshelf of any highbrow material I’m finished with ( I’m still too shy to share with my neighbors the trashy novels with high body counts that comprise most of my actual bedside reading!)
A couple of years ago another box popped up at Old Orchard Park, and five more in Port Coquitlam and I’ve spotted several during visits to Victoria. Curious to know how widespread the phenomena was, I took to Google, and quickly learned that there are upwards of 40,000 registered locations worldwide.
To my utter shock however, I also discovered via my google search that these benign little community affairs are actually the subject of controversy in many places. The boxes have attracted complaints about zoning and by-law compliance in a number of communities ( one municipality even deemed them to be “illegal detached structures” ) and some folks just plain don’t like ad hoc structures popping up on boulevards and front lawns
They have even prompted the ire of the Journal of Radical Librarianship (yes, they are for real!) who suggest that these tiny book exchanges are elitist, often showing up in more affluent, better educated, and predominantly white neighbourhoods, and accuse the volunteers who build them of “self gratification” and “virtue signalling”.
I must say, I find impugning the motives of those who go the extra mile to make our community a better place to be highly offensive, and I shake my head over petty bureaucrats trying to stomp out these friendly little, Thankfully as far as I know, our local boxes haven’t offended anyone.
So, when I ambled down to San Remo drive this weekend, I gave thanks : for a gorgeous spring day, for a community that supports quirky endeavours such as the Little Free Library, and especially, for a neighbour who thoughtfully deposited a couple of dog-eared John Grisham novels that I haven’t read yet !