Out with the old and in with the used: old Vancouver news boxes turned into free libraries

Eleven re-modeled news boxes have been placed around downtown Vancouver where you can pick up, exchange or donate free books. Simon Fraser University

It’s out with the old and in with the used.

Old news boxes, previously used to carry free 24 Hours newspapers, have been re-modeled and spread around downtown Vancouver to act as a “middlemen” to exchange books for free.

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) began a joint project with SFU three months back to turn these little rusted and abandoned boxes as “Free Little Libraries” where people can take, borrow or donate used books.

“This particular company just left them on the street abandoned,” Charles Gauthier, CEO for DVBIA, said. “The only other option would have been for the city of Vancouver to come and pick them up and dispose of them.”

READ MORE: 24 hrs Vancouver newsroom shut down by Postmedia

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Gauthier explained rather than to have them “end up in landfills or as scrap metal,” they would be serving another purpose, including their goals for sustainability.

Currently these boxes have been placed in 11 different locations throughout the downtown core.

Free Little Library locations throughout downtown Vancouver. Google Maps

But because these boxes were left alone in the streets, Gauthier said he underestimated the condition of the metal containers.

“They had quite a bit of rust, you know some of them required the doors to be replaced. They were abandoned and misused so there definitely was some work required to get them to the standards that they are today,” he said.

Gauthier said because these boxes were placed on privately owned land, the only permission required was to deal with the building owners.

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“[If it was on public property] we would’ve approached the city. The city’s well aware of the project and what we’ve done, and just getting the necessary permissions that we had to get,” he said.

He said currently the only concern they have is the amount of theft that could happen.

According to Gauthier, they had a comic library where people would consistently “walk away with the comics” rather than returning them.

READ MORE: Postmedia shuts down community newspapers after swap with Torstar

“It is a concern in the back of our head,” he said. “[I think] we can expect a little bit of theft to occur, potentially people taking them and not returning them, and maybe bringing them to a flea market and selling them. But I think that’s just a risk that we have to be prepared to take.”
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Gauthier said there are a number of little free libraries located where he lives, and it has created a convenient way to “check if there’s a book in there” that he would like to borrow and then return at a later date.

“You know downtown is quite dense and a lot of people do live downtown so we think that this is a great amenity to have. I think it’s just nice thing to have and I think it builds community, and I think it also encourages people to pick up a book and read,” Gauthier said.

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