The Greater Victoria Placemaking Network’s Pocket Places Project has been running for almost a year now, and one component of this project is helping people set up little free libraries (LFLs) of their own. We have sought to fulfill this goal in a number of ways:
We hosted an information workshop with our friends at Resilient Neighbourhoods, in November.
- We have supplied people with LFLs generously build by GVPN volunteers.
- We helped provide people with old Times Colonist newspaper boxes to be upcycled into LFLs.
- We offer advice to people through blog posts as well as through direct messages. Get in touch if you need help getting your LFL or placemaking project off the ground!
Sometimes, however, helping set up a new LFL means digging a hole!
Over the past few months, we have been very happy to support our friends who run the Spirit Gardenin North Jubilee, to help them install Victoria’s newest LFL. This post celebrates this new LFL and is also intended to shed some light on the esoteric practice of LFL installation.
We started off with site selection. The Spirit Garden covers several plots of land and has lots of potential spots for an LFL. Our friends who take care of the garden found this perfect location: the spot is located just off the path, allowing for people to easily reach it, but also requiring them to step off the path.
Once the site was selected, we spent a good deal of time choosing the orientation for the LFL, ensuring that the LFL sat at an inviting angle. This also involved some measurements to ensure that the branches of the foliage around the LFL would provide adequate clearance for this rather large cedar box.
I recruited my good friend Ben, who helped with the digging process. It was hard going at times as we eventually hit clay and had to maneuver around, and where possible remove, several larger rocks.
We aimed to get the holes as deep as possible. The LFL, as you can see below, is large and heavy, and would be even heavier once filled with books. It stands on two 4’x4’x8’ posts, and our aim was to get as much as two-thirds of these posts into the ground.
A month ago, after some lovely weather, we set about installing the legs for the LFL.
We then used gravel and rocks and a level to make sure that the stand was level. If the stand were not level, we were concerned that over time, the weight of the LFL and books would cause it to slowly tip.
We then mixed up some very quick drying cement in a wheelbarrow and filled each hole with two bags. The holes, incidentally, were wide enough to provide about 1.5’ clearance around each post to accommodate the cement. We chose to use cement to stabilize the LFL. If you are installing a smaller LFL, you may not need to use cement in your holes if they are sufficiently deep.
Once both holes were filled with cement, we let them set for a week.
On the next sunny day, I once again recruited Ben as a volunteer to help set the LFL in place on top of the stand.
The LFL was then anchored to the stand using 4 large bolts.
Now that it was installed, all that was left to do was to fill it with books! I put in a copy of Paul Born’s Community Conversations, which I thought was rather appropriate, given the way in which LFLs and other placemaking elements play in fostering community conversations.
Ben, an astrophysicist who researches whale acoustics, added a couple of books about whales.
And Ben’s son, who was born between when we first dug the whole and finally installed the LFL, added a couple of children’s books.
We then stocked the LFL with books donated by the James Bay Community Project. We had our first visitors even before we were finished adding these books when a couple of students on their way home from school stopped by and picked up a couple of books.
If you are setting up an LFL and need some books to get started, the best place to begin is with your neighbours. Let them know you are setting up an LFL and invite them to bring some books to the launch party. Always start with your neighbours, you never know who you will meet! You can also let the GVPN know, as we have a stockpile of books available to help you get started or to help top up your LFL when it’s a little light.
Once we were done, we could not resist taking a couple of glamour shots of the LFL, so that you can see just how well it fits into the lovely landscape of the Spirit Garden.
Go check it out and bring a couple of books along!
Need help setting up an LFL in your neighbourhood, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff is a volunteer member of the board of the GVPN and the lead on the Pocket Places Project.