Partial archived article by Suzanne Kelly

Little Free Libraries (LFL) is a world-wide nonprofit organization through which millions of books are exchanged each year. LFLs) began as a means to address book deserts; places that are far from public libraries, so that readers of all ages and backgrounds can more easily and readily access books in their neighbourhoods. Not all LFLs are located in book deserts though. You have probably seen at least one of the handfuls of LFLs in our community.

The Birch Avenue Greenspace LFL on Birch just north of Barton is located just a block away from one of the most progressive, and influential libraries on the planet (that would be Barton Library of course!). It began when someone donated the “little house” for the library. Books came along as friends and neighbours decluttered, and downsized their collections. We found the perfect little spot for it in our Bruce Appleby tribute garden in the Greenspace where people can lounge on one of the many benches enjoy the lovely flowers and take in a book. Reading material comes from many sources; Hamilton Public Library via the Barton branch has been one of our greatest donors, turning over material they have taken out of circulation. Our neighbourhood handyman, Gary Logue, recently upgraded the structure and a new LFL is home for all the treasures (insert picture of Bruce’s Books)

Libby, who is the official steward of the Cannon and Greenaway LFL, says the community took to the Cannon St. Little Free Library immediately. When the “cabinet on a stick” was just set up, two books appeared in an otherwise empty cupboard before she even had time to stock it, and the engagement has only grown from there. Libby describes Cannon and Sanford as being a bit of a
“book desert” stating, “The book thirst is real; frequently a full library will be picked clean in days”. Being a LFL steward brings Libby more than a little satisfaction, “The sight of new books gifted to the library is always a thrill, but not as much as seeing people making a beeline for the cabinet on a stick or sorting through what’s available before making a selection, and even that pales in comparison to the people who have approached her individually either with donations or thanks for the books they have borrowed”. Libby states categorically that she would encourage anyone to become a steward, “There is great joy in being connected not only to my neighbourhood but also to the wider community of lifelong learners”. The site also hosts a “plant Library” that offers seedlings and seeds. This year they are adding a “Kids Annex” that will include children’s books exclusively. And, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! Cannon Street Little Free Library is celebrating 4 years of serving the community! The Cannon St. Little Free Library’s steward was honoured this week to address, in company with Forjoan Little Free Library’s steward, the lovely young ladies of the 23rd Hamilton Guides, who were kind enough to share with us and our readers the spoils of their recent book drive (98 books and 10 board games!)
(Insert picture of Cannon Street LFL and Girl Guide gathering)

Cathy Wever School on Wentworth hosts a LFL sponsored by the Hamilton Rotary Club. Popular with the kids at the school, the Mission Services clients and people attending Pinky Lewis Rec Centre, it is always being restocked! Big plans and a surprise community dedication are planned for later this year!

(Insert Wever School LFL)

Not all LFL’s are for books. A perfect example of repurposing the concept for the community is the Little Free Pantry on Stirton across from Powell Park. The steward, Joanna Aitchson, describes how it came to life. “When the pandemic hit, it was increasingly obvious that neighbours were barely scraping by, many have had to set up shelter in parks or make the tough decision to eat or pay rent. I started looking into mutual aid efforts and saw that a lot of folks were setting up stands for food sharing in front of their homes, schools, and places of gathering.

In the summer of 2020 some dear friends surprised me with the best birthday gift, my very own Little Free Pantry! Right away the community started filling it. Witnessing so much care and generosity was the spark of hope our family needed in the midst of isolation and rising systemic violence.

The pantry has been well used from the start and still doesn’t stay full for more than a couple of hours. We stock unopened and unexpired dry goods, canned food, toiletries, diapers, formula, and some fresh produce. There’s definitely been a decline in donations and although our household tries to keep it stocked as often as we can afford to, it’s never enough. Still, it’s a joy to receive any donations that do come in and The Little Free Pantry reminds me that we have all we need to take care of each other.

For anyone who wishes to donate, the Little Free Pantry is on Stirton Street near Huron across from Powell Park.
(Insert pictures of LFP)

But don’t forget: Little Free Libraries are meant to be self-sustaining so if you borrow a book bring it back for others to enjoy, and perhaps contribute one or more from your own collection to share the joy and power of reading with your neighbours! As the stewards for LFL’s in the Gibson and Landsdale area, we are thankful for the donations of unused books from our Barton Street branch of Hamilton Public Libraries.