By Joseph Hutt –
If last issue’s Summer Reads theme has sent you off on a book hunt, there are a few locals here in Kitchissippi who might be able to help you get your literary fix. Hidden away on quiet streets, if you know where to look, you will find picturesque little cabinets – handmade and painted, secure against the weather – that become small lending libraries for their respective communities.
Children and adults are welcome to peruse the shelves, well-stocked as they are with literature for all ages. The only string attached is a mere gesture towards self-sufficiency.
“If you take a book, you leave a book,” explains Barbara Zuchowicz, who curates the little library at 35 Kenora St. “Not that you have to do them at the same time.”
Through this, each of the little libraries listed below experiences great turnover, to the point where, by the time you have finished the first book you have borrowed, there is surely a surprise or two waiting for when you visit again.
Considering how much of a community hub hers has become, Barbara has even considered upgrading the functionality of her little library by allowing people to post community notices on its sides.
While most little libraries live a relatively static existence (aside from their ever-changing contents), the Englehardt family’s library, at 664 Mansfield Ave., is more of an ongoing family project.
Cobbling together the remnants of some other household projects, their little library began as just a public shelf built by Erin Englehardt and her two daughters, Helen and May.
“Then we decided that some people shouldn’t just sit on the curb and read a book,” says May Englehardt. “So we had an old bench and my sister painted it, and we attached them.”
Now, their little library has become a lush retreat, with a stone path and cherry tomato garden that patrons are welcome to snack on.
“Every now and then we’ll find someone sitting there reading,” Mark affirms.
And that is really one of the more fascinating effects of these little libraries. Not only do they provide people with great books, they seem capable of building and strengthening the bonds within these communities.
According to Barbara, “It’s only been two months, but I have been able to put names to faces of people I know who live in the neighbourhood but we’ve never talked… It’s just another thing that pulls everybody together.”
Inspired by her nephew’s own Little Library, Barbara Zuchowicz (above) has created something of a community hub for young and old alike.
Location: 35 Kenora St.
Inaugural date: May 2016
Current stock: Sue Grafton’s ‘B’ is for Burglar, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, William Gibson’s The Peripheral, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, Lance Armstrong’s Every Second Counts.
Fond memory: “School opened up and there’s this group of… grade eight boys, five or six of them, who would walk down here every day at lunch time. And they were being very rambunctious with their skateboards… and then one of them stopped and looked in the library, and two days later he took a book! And then he brought a book! It was so exciting! It’s been nothing but great!”
It only makes sense that the Geeky Godmother (Lee Ann Farruga) would have a little library stationed outside of her house (pictured above) to treat neighbours and passersby.
Location: 33 Garrison St.
Inaugural date: October 2012
Current stock: Joanna Trollope’s Marrying the Mistress, Nicolas Freeling’s Dressing of Diamond, Sahelian Toews’ The Common Cold Cure, Clay & Susan Griffith’s The Geomancer, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.
Fond memory: (Lee Ann was unavailable for comment at press time. This information was shared on her Facebook page which can be found via geekygodmother.ca) “Here’s a little history for you – our home was the area post office in the 1920’s. It has been a community hub for almost 100 years. We love continuing that tradition. One way is our mini library. It is full of books for all ages…. If you live near, be sure to share our little gem with your neighbours.”
Kimberly Senf, a school librarian herself, takes her work home with her in a rather literal way with her mini library (pictured above).
Location: 64 Melrose Ave.
Inaugural date: December 2015
Current stock: Christopher DiCarlo’s How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass, Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, Alice Kuiper’s 40 Choses Que Je Vieux te Dire, Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys, Elizabeth Goudie’s Woman of Labrador.
Fond memory: “I just like that people stop there, and they can look around and find a book to read. Because I’m always reading and I like to promote the idea of people reading as opposed to staring at their phones all the time, or just watching TV.”
The Englehardt’s book nook truly is a family affair, with Erin, Mark and their two daughters, May (pictured above) and Helen, all pitching in with the making and maintaining of it.
Location: 664 Mansfield Ave.
Inaugural date: Spring 2015
Current stock: T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass & The Amber Spyglass, Aiden Beaverson’s The Hidden Arrow of Maether, Patricia MacLachlan’s Skylark, Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, Nora Roberts’ Untamed, Titania Hardle’s The Rose Labyrinth, Jennifer Robson’s After the War is Over.
Fond memory: May: “I remember the first people to ever come to our library were a little girl and her dad, and I had an old Fancy Nancy sticker book and I gave it to them, and it was really nice to see the smile on that girl’s face.”
Mark: “My favorite memories are of Erin and the girls making it, painting it, and just creating this thing. And I just kinda like that people use it.”