Manor Park’s little libraries have a long reach in the neighbourhood

Andrea Stewart tours some of our local little libraries

By Manor Park Chronicle

This image shows Andrea Stewart and her husband John Delacourt's little library on Hemlock Rd.
A great way to share books among neighbours, Andrea notes her and her husband’s Little Free Library has housed books with notes to other readers, gift-wrapped books, puzzles, magazines and even old Buns of Steel VHS tapes. Photo supplied

It is said that love can make you do crazy things, and it turns out that the love of books can make you build a library. This is what happened to my husband John Delacourt and I, along with several residents in our neighbourhood.

John, who is also a novelist, is a big believer that books are meant to be shared and so we decided to become the stewards of a Little Free Library, an American-based not-for-profit organization with a mission for “building community, inspiring readers and expanding book access for all.”

By building these small, community-based libraries, anyone can, in the words of the company’s slogan, “Take a book, share a book.” This allows neighbours to recirculate some of their own books, and gives a place for others to do the same.

Through their website, Little Free Library provides information on how anyone can build and maintain their own little library in their community. Through donations, they also fund the building of little libraries in ‘book deserts’ (an area or community with limited access to books due to the absence of libraries, lack of public transit, low-income, etc.).

For a small fee, stewards can receive a charter plaque and be registered for book giveaways to stock their library. Chartered libraries are mapped on the Little Free Library website. There are over 150,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 115 countries, including several in and around Manor Park.

Busy destinations

Joanne Beveridge, who met her husband Campbell Osler over 40 years ago when she worked for Books Canada and he for Doubleday, received a library as a ‘concept’ Christmas gift in 2021. Their friend and neighbour Martin Munro worked with Joanne and Campbell to build their Little Free Library, cleverly designed to accommodate large format children’s books.

Their library, on Braemar St., is finished with paint and siding from their house and has become a busy destination point for the community. Joanne notes, “It particularly makes my heart sing seeing our local children enjoying a read.”

Olga and her husband Martin, both voracious readers who believe reading is a “key to personal growth and knowledge”, started their library to provide access to books in the Forbes neighbourhood. Martin, who also is an English teacher, built their little library from scratch, ensuring the design would keep books dry through our Canadian winter. Olga shares Joanne’s delight in seeing children engaging with their library, commenting “If it helps even one kid become a life-long reader, it’s a job well-done, as far as I am concerned.”

Jennifer Henderson’s Little Free Library, on the corner of Vachon and Dagmar avenues, was built by The Nordic Woodshop. Embraced by the community, Jennifer stocks over 100 books some months, and on sunny days, brings out a book shelf to accommodate demand.

She notes, “In 2021, I requested a bench installed as part of the city’s Older Adult Plan, and so we have nearby seating.”

The “Vanier Little Free Library” posts its latest offerings on its Facebook page, and Jennifer and other volunteers have “gone mobile to schools to give away books at special events and even attended the Beechwood Farmer’s Market” to expand their outreach.

Giller Prize finalists

John and I, who are anything but handy, approached the Ottawa City Woodshop (OCW) to find a carpenter to build our library on Hemlock Rd. OCW member Arthur Visser of Castor River Design & Woodwork has built three more libraries since building ours in 2019, all different and each “a lot of fun to make.”

Hundreds of books have passed through our sturdy red cupboard, including two annual sets of Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists and several Scholastic children’s books via the Little Free Library steward program.

Readers by foot, car and bike trade fiction and non-fiction, how-to and children’s books – in English, French, German and Spanish. There are books with notes to the next reader, such as touching words of solidarity for anyone who might also need the book on grief that had been shared. Gift-wrapped books, puzzles, magazines and, hilariously, Buns of Steel VHS tapes.

The common bond between library stewards is our love of reading and our belief in the importance of books. Building our Little Free libraries has been a rewarding outlet and neighbours have responded with equal enthusiasm to make each library a valuable part of our community. We all regularly hear words of positive feedback and thanks from readers of all ages. To that, I think I can speak for all of us by saying, it’s our pleasure, and we hope our little libraries will continue to help you find something great to read.

Joanne Beveridge and Campbell Osler, who both used to work in the publishing industry, received their little library as a gift in 2021. They made sure to design it so that it could accommodate children’s books and ensure a path is kept clear in winter, as Campbell is doing in the above photo. Photo: Grace Osler