While walking around her neighbouhood, Maureen Burr has noticed people pulling up in their cars and looking at books placed in an old newspaper box.
The idea of a curbside library itself is nothing new—Vancouver has several of them.
What is new is that this is the first curbside library in Richmond focused exclusively on kids’ books. Hart’s little Lassam Road Children’s Library is located near the intersection of Lassam and Wallace Roads and is right down the street from nearby James McKinney Elementary. According to Hart, this type of library performs a special function that regular libraries can’t.
“For a community to be literate, we need to make sure that those who have troubles with literacy have access to low-barrier opportunities to gain literacy skills.”
By low-barrier, Hart explains, she means if you look at traditional library, users need to first apply for and then use a library card, have access to transportation to and from the library, and know when books are due. Having a library made from a newspaper box at the curbside “removes barriers for some people.”
“It enhances literacy in our community and it’s easily accessible by those who maybe would have difficulty with some of the barriers that a traditional public library offers,” said Hart.
Hart said the library is part of the Little Free Library network, an organization that helps people throughout the world—15, 000 small libraries in the world—by giving suggestions and tips to operating a library. Hart adds you have to be sensitive to your own community, and you must always leave room in your library for donations.
Hart wanted a library that was fire-resistant, waterproof and visually interesting. The library is constructed out of a newspaper box. The process of sanding, painting and making small adjustments, such as changing the door’s hinge, took almost three months for the idea to become reality.
The library also brings a sense of community.
Hart said Lassam Road is a popular walkway for people and it links Steveston Highway and Williams Road. There are lots of walkers and runners on Lassam Road. Whether they are using the library or not, people in this small neighbourhood appreciate the fact that it’s there.
“I’ve noticed people pull up in their cars and children getting out and going and looking at it, selecting things,” said Burr, who was out walking with her husband Alan and golden retriever Molly. “Several times, actually, in my walks around. So that’s kinda neat and I’ve seen similar things advertised in Vancouver, so it’s nice to see it out here.
Burr added, “I just think it’s a neat encouragement for kids to read and it gives them a chance to select the books and things they want, and it gives other people a chance to donate books that they no longer want.”
Tristan Kerr and his father, Stuart, were also out walking their dog. They both thought the curbside library was brilliant, especially with it being right by the school.
Hart’s a fan of children’s books, and has been “writing them for more than a decade,” and is familiar with them. By sharing her personal knowledge about children’s books and about reading with her community, she thinks benefits everybody. Hart also said the library is a “completely natural extension” of the work she has done for most of her adult life. Hart originally supplied some books, but almost all are donations.
Hart’s had books left in the library almost every day since it opened. She also said once someone anonymously dropped off a bag of books at her front door.
Books are identified using stickers as being from the Lassam Road Library as a method to prevent them from being sold in a used books store. The sticker also has the address of the Facebook page for the Lassam Road Library.
On the Facebook page for the Lassam Road Library, there is one post of the School Library Journal, the largest reviewer of children’s & young adult material, and its top 100 picture books. She indicated which of those books were available in the Lassam Road Library. Another post was the top 100 novels for children, and again commented which ones were in the library.
Hart said it’s great for parents to have the opportunity to know that those books are available, saying that many parents have difficulty figuring out which books are good for their children. Hart said she’s more than willing to share her expertise with her community.