March 19, 2015 6:27 pm
Updated: March 20, 2015 8:29 am

Little free library helps build a sense of community

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Watch above: It’s known as the little free library and one can be found on a Saskatoon resident’s front lawn, offering books to passers-by. Meaghan Craig delves into the history of the concept and explores how it’s swept the globe.

SASKATOON – What if the next time you curled up to read a good book, the selection was at the recommendation of a stranger? There is a new literacy movement taking the globe, and perhaps a neighbourhood near you, by storm.

“I just built one to honour my mom in my yard and what ended up happening is it ended up being a global sensation,” said Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, the creator of Little Free Library.

That was six years ago at the age of 54 and Bol can only describe his creation as like a first kiss; it was magical and special but he didn’t really know what the future held.

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Today, more than 70 countries worldwide have a “little free library,” teeny tiny book exchanges that are popping up everywhere including Regina and Saskatoon.

“Everyone likes it, people have thanked me for putting it there,” explained Jeff MacDonald, who set up his do-it-yourself library last August along 6th Street East.

“It was really popular in the fall and I’m sure it will be in the summer ’cause more people are walking but we shoveled a pathway to it in the winter and people still used it any time there was fresh snow I could see people had been at it,” remarked MacDonald.

The concept is simple: take a book and return a book, but these water coolers of literacy are also building communities.

“It gives us an excuse which we all want, to get to know each other,” said Bol.

The petite libraries touch our primal side in a big way explained Bol, in wanting to have close connections with each other.

“They’re talking again at the little free library and they want to talk and they want to help each other.”

MacDonald says he agrees with Bol’s assessment and has experienced it firsthand.

“Half of the people that stand there looking at it probably don’t take things and it would be great if they did but most of them don’t take things,” said MacDonald.

“If I’m sitting on the steps or mowing the grass then they ask ‘Who built this?’ Obviously, I built this, it’s right in front of my house, of course it was me, but we then visit and we talk about the books and if they don’t take them because they’ve already read them then I still met one person that probably lives near by and we talk and it’s neat.”

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Critics question whether these little library are just jails for bad books? Possibly, said MacDonald, but not at his miniature library.

“I purge this one regularly, anything that’s in there that’s not going somewhere or ones that don’t suit it or don’t fit the style of the ones that are being borrowed I get rid of, I donate to something else so these aren’t bad books.”

According to city officials, these itsy bitsy libraries are perfectly fine as long as they do not obstruct a sidewalk in any way.

For more information can be found at the Little Free Library website.

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