Monday, December 12, 2016

A not-so-little free library

What is this? Lots of books just hanging out in the middle of the street at the bus stop at Cornwall and Maple in Kitsilano.
The front view of the bus-shelter book exchange, much bigger than the "little free libraries" elsewhere in the city. The deal is the same -- take one, leave one.
There's the usual selection of iffy health books and old travel books you find in places like this, but also some classics. 

A while ago, I wrote about little free libraries -- little boxes popping up all over the city offering passersby free books on a "take one, leave one" basis. The libraries were made from all kinds of things -- a dollhouse, a dining-room cabinet with a stained-glass front, a discarded wardrobe. Others were built specifically for the purpose -- neat little boxes with peaked roofs, windows and one or two shelves for books.

But the one I spotted Monday was on another scale entirely. About six feet high and four feet wide, it was a two-sided glass enclosure forming one entire wall of a bus shelter. From a distance, I couldn't believe what I was seeing -- was it a big photograph of shelves of books, or the real thing? Closer up, when the gaps between the books revealed the street scene beyond, I had to accept that yes, it really was five fully stocked shelves of books hanging out there in the middle of the street.

You can imagine how delightful someone like me found this. All those books, loosed from library and bookstore and basement shelves, sitting out there in broad daylight, in transparent liberty, free as air. Most books in such exchanges are the kind people want to get rid of -- old health books, wretched popular fiction, ancient travel books -- but with a few gems interspersed. This display had some of the usual, but because of its sheer size, a lot more gems. Thackeray's Vanity Fair, James Joyce's Ulysses, some Dickens, a recent popular book called Gut (yes, it's about our intestines) that I later saw in a bookstore at full price.

Predictably, a display this big in a prime spot usually reserved for advertising is not in fact a "little free library." While the deal is the same -- take a book or leave one, or both -- it's a temporary operation courtesy of a university marketing campaign. The idea is to encourage people to keep reading and learning -- preferably at Royal Roads University.

I'm sorry it's not permanent; it's wonderful to see books given such a prominent airing in a prime location. But I'd like to think a few people who would never have thought of picking up a Thackery or a Dickens -- or even a Gut -- will reach into that glass case, open the covers, and get hooked.

The exchange is part of  a campaign by Royal Roads University to encourage people to keep reading and learning. 

This is what you see as you go whizzing past the bus stop en route to the Burrard Bridge. I like the fact that the bookshelf is in such a prominent spot, just a few blocks from Kitsilano Beach. If it was summer, a great source of beach books! 

1 comment:

  1. Good on Royal Roads! I imagine they pay quite a bit for this prime space but I also think it's a rather brilliant idea. I doubt most people would pay much attention to the advertisement even as large as this space....but books?