Michael Andrus with his book box at 4 Emmett Street. DON RICKERS

The little library movement is spreading in Pelham.

You’ll see them on the front lawn as you pass by, a cabinet intended for the free and anonymous storage and exchange of books, with none of the formalities associated with public libraries.

Though most of the little library boxes in Fonthill appear to be ad-hoc, stand-alone projects, there is actually a worldwide association of such street-level library activity, with cabinets of books, along with CD and DVD collections, spawned by the good intentions of neighbours.

Littlefreelibrary.org is a non-profit organization based in Wisconsin, founded in 2009. Some 90,000 of the pop-up book exchanges are registered in 91 countries (though most are in the US), providing millions of book exchanges annually to readers of all ages and backgrounds. The group’s website contains a world map with locations and GPS coordinates of library boxes, along with free designs and blueprints for book-sharing cabinets.

Book box at 9 Brock Street. DON RICKERS

The founder, Todd Bol, designed a wooden container to look like a one-room schoolhouse, and was built as a tribute to his late mother, a teacher and book-lover. His goal was to build 2,510 of the little libraries across the midwestern United States, surpassing the number of public libraries endowed by famous philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Michael and Rosemary Andrus, at 4 Emmett Street in Fonthill, put out their little free library box a couple days before Christmas.

“Our daughter, who’s in Ottawa, prompted us to do it,” said Rosemary, who has lived on the street with her husband for almost 30 years. “Michael was installing the library box when a woman pulled up in her car and said, ‘Do you want some books?,’ and she returned with about 30.”

Use of the box has been at a low ebb to date, which Rosemary attributes to the winter weather.

She is confident that as word spreads, the library box will get more use.

“It’s just something to do during the pandemic, just to keep people reading,” she said.

Joe Van Bolderen with his little library at 17 Fallingbrook Drive. DON RICKERS

Retiree Joe Van Bolderen, of 17 Fallingbrook Drive in Fonthill, said that a former business contact in Vancouver introduced him to the little library concept.

“When my grandchildren came along, I thought it might be time to set up a little library with books for the kids, to encourage reading,” he said.

Scrap lumber and a few redundant materials from his garage were crafted into his book exchange, which sees regular traffic from both adults and children in the neighbourhood.

Some people drop off books four or five at a time, and take a couple, said Van Bolderen. “It’s been quite the conversation piece.”

Amy Guilmette, acting CEO of the Pelham Public Libraries in Fonthill and Fenwick, which are currently only offering curbside service during the pandemic lockdown, said that her system has no connection with the little free library movement, but added, “I think they are fantastic.” She noted that a Pelham library staff member, who has since retired, had the first little free library in Welland, and continues to stock it with books and other materials.


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