STREET LIBRARIES: Little Acorns, Mighty Oaks…

Story and photos by Carmel Liddell.

Though still a rare species, Street Libraries are blooming in Australian gardens. The idea began in 2009 when Wisconsin man Todd Bol installed America’s first neighbourhood book exchange in his front yard. His ‘one-room schoolhouse’ style book cabinet (designed as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher), quickly became an unofficial gathering point. Bol realised that people craved conversation as much as books so in 2012, he founded The Little Library Movement. To date, 35,000 little libraries have popped up in America, and the concept has spread to eighty countries worldwide.

Approximately five years ago, Newtown resident Nic Lowe founded the Street Library Australia organisation. His aim was – and is – to help people establish their own pop-up book exchanges. Ready -made cabinets are available but Lowe has seen libraries fashioned from bird cages, doll’s houses, microwave ovens, cupboards, letterboxes and telephone booths etc. Anything goes – as long as it’s weatherproof !

Maureen Partridge, a forty year resident of Cross Street Baulkham Hills, is one of 500 Australians inspired to plant something different in her front yard. It needs no water and won’t attract feathered friends, but the locals love it! Maureen says (quote)

‘I set up the library after seeing one in a disused phone box in New Zealand and another outside a Tasmanian B & B. My friend John Murray designed and made the library, keeping it in context with my weatherboard house. He is now working on another for a friend on the Central Coast. Hers is more rustic, clad with old fence palings to fit in with their bush block. I stocked it initially with books no longer needed, but in less than two weeks there have been about 40 books taken and 30 donated. People leave notes in the cabinet, stop to say how much they like it and one person rang the local paper to tell them about it. I think it is going to be a great success!’

Interested? Does your home library need – crop rotation? Why not top dress (donate to) an existing library or plant one of your own. Go out on a limb…. that’s where the fruit is.