On Monday, December 18, at noon, neighbours gathered on Pembroke St., to cut the ribbon on the 800th little free library (LFL) in the CRD. It was installed by Gaye Sihin, an investor and admirer of architecture, and it is an adorable replica of the house at 1215 Pembroke St.. It was built by Ray Young, a former management consultant whose company, I Used To Be A Pallet, upcycles old pallets into beautiful LFLs.
Little free libraries are little public book boxes that operate on the principle of ‘leave a book – take a book.’ They can be found throughout the CRD in all shapes and sizes. While most share books, there is a growing number of LFLs that specialise in a certain type of book (poetry, children’s books, French books), as well as LFLs dedicated to sharing plants, seeds, toys, household items, board games, puzzles, art supplies, art, food, and more.
Since 2017, the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network (GVPN) has been running the Pocket Places Project, which maps, promotes, stocks, and helps build LFLs across the CRD. The Project is led by Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a volunteer with the GVPN, who helps celebrate project milestones. You can also regularly find him cycling around the region with a bike trailer full of books, topping up LFLs. To date, the project has delivered over 85,000 books to LFLs across the CRD, mapped out 800 LFLs, and helped set up over 120.
“I fell in love with this house the moment I saw it,” said Gaye Sihin, “The brick and front archway reminds me of old buildings in Toronto, where I grew up. When I moved in, learned that the home was built in 1890 by the Adams Family, brick layers who were also responsible for our BC Parliament Buildings, and I wanted to revive its prominence and grandeur.”
“A news story highlighting Ray Young’s Little Free Libraries stuck with me, and I was intrigued by the idea of sharing books, seeds, and other items no longer needed to extend their usefulness to others,” said Sihin. “I love the details of my little free library, and I’m so impressed by Ray’s craftsmanship and the attention to details he’s highlighted on the house. I love that this little free library is also fitted with a light, which allows people to stop by to check on its contents, take a book and add a book, even on dark winter afternoons.”
“When Gaye first approached me about replicating her home as an LFL, l knew the brickwork and roof shape would be the most challenging to replicate, but all the more interesting to do so successfully,” said Ray Young, from ‘I Used To Be A Pallet,’ who built the 800th LFL. “As an avid reader with a passion for sustainability, my initial goals for LFLs were to promote reading and to upcycle materials headed for the scrap heap. More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to creatively replicate some of the outstanding architecture that exists in the city.”
“It’s amazing how something as simple as a whimsical little book box can serve to connect people, create identity of place, and ultimately help build community,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who has volunteered as the lead of the Pocket Places Project for the past seven years. “It’s delightful to see the coral reefs for community popping up all over our region. I’m pleased to say that the CRD has the highest documented density of little libraries in the country. I am constantly impressed by our growing little free library community, which not only includes LFLs for books, but has expanded to include ones for plants, seeds, poetry, art and art supplies, yarn, toys, household items, and more!”
“I’m delighted to see the increasing reach of these community-based Free Libraries. They speak so eloquently about not only the importance of Literacy in our lives, but also about the critical role of interacting with our neighbours on the streets where we live,” said Victoria Councillor Chris Colman, who was on hand to cut the ribbon and say a few words. “I’m, of course, particularly pleased that the greatest number of these community initiatives are to be found in Victoria….and #800 is right here in Fernwood. My profound thanks to all involved!”
“Through volunteering with the community, I decided to get involved with the Pocket Places Project” said Jessica Hum, GVPN director and local LFL librarian. “Up-cycling building materials, like pallet boards, is already a big part of my life. The “Dive Inn” little free library is across the street from a busy park and it’s well-loved by all ages in our neighbourhood. These boxes of reciprocity are powered by the engine of placemaking!”
“Little Free Libraries are great community builders. Lots of friendly conversations happen at the LFLs in my neighbourhood. We need more of them!” Said Dave Thompson, City of Victoria Councillor.
“The unveiling of the 800th Little Free Library marks a joyous occasion and milestone in fostering community connections through the love of literature. These small but mighty book-sharing hubs have become cherished landmarks in our community, weaving a tapestry of shared stories among neighbours. From children discovering their first adventures to seniors sharing cherished classics, Little Free Libraries embody the spirit of shared connection and the enduring power of books,” said Grace Lore, MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill, and Minister of State for Child Care.
“With the inauguration of our 800th ‘Little Free Library,’ we celebrate a community united by a love of reading. These boxes, born from the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network’s vision, are a testament to our region’s commitment to literacy, learning and education. I thank all those who are working to connect our residents by opening the joys of storytelling,” said Marianne Alto, Mayor of the City of Victoria.
The full map of all 800+ LFLs in Victoria can be found here