Free Street Libraries

Dianne Liwanag has found a way to connect with her community with a little free library, which is gathering a lot of attention.

On 19 Street and 22 Avenue N.W. in Banff Trail stands a small green box decorated with hand-drawings, which can hold more than 20 books, depending on how they are stacked.

Liwanag first discovered the free library idea from listening to a CBC Radio link that a friend posted on Facebook.

“I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always been a proponent of literacy,” said Liwanag.

The busy traffic location made her think the situation perfect and easy to get into.

“It was a bit of a social experiment,” said Liwanag, who has had the little free library on her front lawn for approximately a month.

The response so far has been tremendous.
Being on the main street and close to a few bars, Liwanag has seen a little vandalism but nothing serious.

“The turnaround has been crazy,” said Liwanag about the success of the free library.

Before Liwanag and her husband had a chance to take a picture of the new library, there were already a couple of people standing around it.

“We had literally just finished putting the dirt in the hole,” said Liwanag.

She filled the box right away with books she knew she wasn’t going to read again, and asked friends for donations.

“They were gone within a couple of days, so I filled it back up,” she said.

For curiosity’s sake she tried to keep track of the book circulation in the first week but found it to be too much work.

“It was changing not only daily but several times a day,” she said, “It has been really interesting to see how busy it is.”

Linawag has seen drivers stop in their vehicles to take photos of the library. She worries that a few car crashes may occur because of the attention the library gets from the road.

“It is really nice because we get to meet neighbours that we’ve never met before.”

Although the Free Library website has an option for people to order custom-made library boxes, Liwanag built the library with her friend Chris Shannon.

“I thought it should be pretty easy to build a box and put it up.

“It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be,” she said, laughing.

Linawag gave a lot of credit to Home Depot for donating wood and said the staff helped with the design of the box to make sure it would withstand Calgary’s weather.

Liwanag tries to put kids’ books in the library because she lives in a school area. The books range from toddler to young adult and teen books.

“Those don’t last in there very long,” said Liwanag about the youth books, so the library is more often stocked with advanced reading material.

Linawag placed a notebook inside the box to attain written comments, but found to her amusement that someone took it for their own use.

“I should have made it more obvious. I’ll get a less nice notebook and hopefully people will start leaving notes,” she said.

Littlefreelibrary.org registers the free libraries around the world, but Liwanag’s hasn’t been registered yet.

The website is quite slow getting Canadian free libraries on the list, according to Linawag. She knows of some libraries in Brentwood that have been standing for a long while but don’t show on the website.

“It would be nice to be on that map just to see how many other Canadian libraries there are,” she said.

The “Free Library” idea started in Hudson, Wisc. where a man named Todd Bol placed the first free library on his lawn in 2009.

About Elin Jensdottir 6 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Elin Jensdottir worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2012-2013 academic year.