By Sue McFadden
Out of nowhere, they suddenly popped up like toadstools – beautifully painted boxes which quickly filled with books. The two little free libraries that have appeared in Whenuapai this year are part of the world’s largest book sharing movement.
The tiny book exchanges have been created to build reading communities in our neighbourhood. In other corners of the world, there’s been a mushrooming of
these little lending receptacles during the Covid-19 pandemic, with large libraries closed.
You can borrow for free, donate or exchange books. But it’s not a dumping ground for old books you no longer want. Instead, you’re encouraged to put in a book that you’d enjoy reading – one you’d want to share with others. Long-time Whenuapai resident Vanessa Johnson is the guardian of the Whenuapai Village little library, situated on the edge of Malcolm Hahn Reserve on Waimarie Road, just a stone’s throw from the village hall. She came up with the idea after first seeing one in New Orleans a few years ago, and approached the Whenuapai R&R. “I thought it was delightful, and how I’d love to have one in the village. I’m a huge book lover and it seemed like a fun and easy idea to provide books to the community,” says Vanessa, who’s also a primate keeper at Auckland Zoo.
“It sat on the back burner for a while, but we got there in the end!” Around the same time, Vinetta Plummer had the same bright idea. She’d worked with establishing a network of little libraries in
Massey, where some are fashioned from revamped household appliances - brightly painted fridges and a pile of microwaves. “A little library is a great way to get community connection,” Vinetta says. “They’re becoming more and more popular.” So Vanessa and Vinetta worked together and got funding from Community Waitakere for a new wooden library; Vanessa’s neighbour, Matt Jenkinson, offered to build it. Vanessa then approached local artist Amber Emm to paint it. She brought local fauna and flora into the design (and included a wee fairy for younger readers to discover). “It was a great team effort,” Amber says. “It’s something a bit different and unique. And it’s nice to be doing something like this for our community.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of Whenuapai, Beverly van Vugt decided to put up a little free library for her fast-growing community. The library on Tamiro Road has been open for exchanging books since January. Beverly funded the library herself, and also got Matt Jenkinson to build it. Her friend Michelle Ogilvie Teahan did the artwork. “She has
a website which is on the side of the library if people are interestedin her work. She’s done a few community projects,” Bev says. “It’s going well. The books are moving pretty well and I have some inside my house, which I rotate - but all books are welcome.” To keep it interesting, Beverly has had some book theme weeks. “We did a kids’ weekend, where people shared books, games and puzzles. We also just did neighbours’ week where we did swap a plant and used the library as the designated area,” she says. In the near future, Beverly is also planning a Mother’s Day weekend theme with cookbooks, patterns and craft books.
There is already one outside Anna’s Hair Salon in Kaukapakapa.
Maybe we may see more in the future. .Ed