They’re called Little Free Libraries and they have become a global phenomenon. In this digital age, book lovers are doing whatever they can to share the love of traditional books published in paper and ink.
Okotoks will soon have seven Little Libraries scattered throughout the town, including in public parks, thanks to an initiative by the Okotoks Public Library.
The program will launch the first week of June when five Little Libraries will open in locations like the Okotoks Recreation Centre, the Okotoks Food Bank and three town parks.
While the town’s library is opening the Little Free Libraries, the program is being financed by Okotoks Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). The organization came up with $5,000 for materials and labour to build the libraries.
The concept of the free library is simple. A deposit box mounted on a post is displayed in a public place and is full of books free for the taking. Visitors are on the honour system and are expected to replace the book they choose with another book they’d like to share. The deposit boxes are often constructed in the shape of a box with a glass door and are weather proof. Often, homeowners will construct and place a Little Free Library and put it on their front lawn close to the sidewalk.
The director of the Okotoks Public Library, Tessa Nettleton, told the Western Wheel that she thought about this program last year after attending a Lethbridge conference. In Lethbridge, the libraries are inside buildings but Nettleton thought public places such as Okotoks parks would be a nice addition, making books accessible to those who don’t go to some of the town’s public buildings and who don’t have transportation or perhaps don’t have money for books.
Parks chosen for the free libraries are those which are the furthest distance from the Okotoks Public Library.
To launch the program, the public library and board members will be responsible for initially stocking the free libraries with books that are donated. The hope is that the program will be self-sustaining once people get the hang of the idea that once they take a book they are supposed to replace it with another of their choosing.
The libraries are being constructed by Okotoks residents and each once is unique in appearance. A library employee’s husband, Steve Coe, is a woodworker and personally built two of them. One is a log cabin. Coe’s experience includes building toys out of wood so constructing small houses was a fund experience he said.
The Coe family has hundreds of books they’d like to donate.
Vandalism is a concern with these unattended libraries and participants say they almost expect a degree of tampering but belief in the value of free libraries outweighs any concerns.
Each public library board member has been assigned a free library to monitor and watch over to ensure they’re being used.
A public consultation process helped determine which parks would be appropriate for a Little Free library and to provide a platform for Okotoks residents to share positive and negative feedback.
Posts will go in the ground for the five outdoor libraries in Cimarron Grove, Drake Landing, Westmount, Sunshine and Sandstone. The houses are quite heavy and will be braced after being mounted on the posts.
More information can be found on the Okotoks Public Library website.