When I was a kid, I used to love going to the library. There was something amazing about going down to the local library with an empty book bag, and coming home with a bag full of borrowed magic that I could pore over for hours. Then I started earning money, and my visits to the library became less frequent as my bookshelves at home filled up with purchased books. This continued until I bought a kindle about four years ago, at which point I stopped reading physical books altogether and promptly forgot about libraries entirely.
But two things have happened recently that have rekindled my love for libraries. The first one is that my wonderful Grandpa (who, incidentally, is 93 years old and a regular reader of this blog) bought me a membership for the Athenaeum Library in Melbourne. The Ath is Melbourne’s oldest library, starting its life in 1839 just four years after Melbourne became a colony, and is filled with all the magic and history that you’d expect from a library of that vintage.
Over the past two months since I started my membership I’ve borrowed and read a new book every week, and I approach my visits to the library with all the excitement and anticipation that I did when I was a kid. I still feel like there’s something vaguely mischievous about the whole thing – walking to down to the library in my lunch break and coming back with a bag full of books that I didn’t pay for, and that they trust me to return when I’m finished. Amazing.
The second thing that has renewed my love of libraries is that I came across the Little Free Library movement. Basically, Little Free Libraries are tiny book boxes in front yards, bus stops, gardens and bike paths across the world where you can ‘leave a book, take a book’. The movement started about three years ago, when Todd Bol from Wisconsin came up with an idea to remember his mother – a teacher who had a passion for reading and literacy. Todd crafted a box that looked like an old school house, waterproofed it, filled it with books and put it in his yard with a sign that said ‘free book exchange’.
The idea took off, and all of a sudden, neighbours who Todd had never spoken to were dropping in to chat and look through the books. Three years later, there are Little Free Libraries everywhere from Africa to Australia, and Todd has a website (www.littlefreelibrary.org) where you can buy kits to create your own library. Little Free Library’s mission is simple – “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide, and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations”. Double amazing.
Why not check out the Little Free Library World Map to find out if there’s one near you, or even better, how about starting one in your neighbourhood and sharing some library love!