Mini libraries offer community connection

Okotoks: Residents welcome to install their own Little free libraries in town

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jul 03, 2014 06:00 am

Nina, Tommy and Leo Scott are excited to have people in town start using the Little Free Library outside of their home on Elma St.
Nina, Tommy and Leo Scott are excited to have people in town start using the Little Free Library outside of their home on Elma St.
Roxanne Blackwell/OWW

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You don’t need a library card to check out a book at the newest library in Okotoks. Located at 74 Elma St, the ‘Little Free Library’ runs on the “take-a-book, leave-a-book” honour system.

The libraries are similar to mailboxes, and they’re starting to sprout up in other towns and cities. They sit out front of people’s homes or businesses, but instead of mail they are filled with reading material for anyone to enjoy.

Laurie Hunka heard about the little free library project taking off in Calgary, and brought the idea to her husband and three kids. They decided it would create a space for the community as well as encourage people to read.

“We thought it would be a really good idea on this street because it's business residential, there's a lot of pedestrian traffic here and because we have this section of property in front of our house from the town,” Hunka said. “We thought it would be a neat way to utilize that as actual community property rather than just grass.”

Her daughter, Nina Scott, 11, was eager to connect with the community and recycle books that she and her siblings had no use for.

“Usually if you read a book you don’t read it again, so instead of going and getting a new book and letting your old ones sit in the house, you can return it to get a new one,” she said. “There wasn’t a fun way to encourage me to read before, but when we found this it's fun and encouraging and it's easy.”

They went to www.littlefreelibrary.org and looked up designs for the library, then submitted an application to Town Council to install the fixture on town property.

Mayor Robertson said he thought it was a great idea, and decided to allow residents to install little free libraries along roadways adjacent to property lines. Town administration will be keeping an eye on the libraries as they pop up to make sure they are appropriately sized, visually pleasing, and don’t pose any other issues.

Municipal manager Rick Quail said the town will have the authority to require modifications or removal if it feels necessary, but residents will not have to go through an approval process before putting up their own library.

“We don’t want to over regulate these things, but we have to balance it out with community standards,” he said.

Hunka’s children have been eager to get the library started, as Hunka said they are the ones who will be in charge of it.

“For me there were two things that we liked about it, first it allows (the children) to take a leadership position in the community and I think it encourages our kids to understand how to contribute to the community,” Hunka said. “The other thing is it creates a meeting place. It becomes a place where you can chat with people.”

Nina said she’s looking forward to seeing the libraries pop up in town.

“I'm hoping other residents from Okotoks around us will build one so we can do it with other people too,” she said. “It's cool to see what kind of books people like to read, and it’s not even about the books, you can meet new people.”

For more information on little free libraries or to register your library on the map, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.


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