A Community transmission worth spreading

Promoting a love of books

Olfactory memory.

Have you ever smelled a smell and immediately been reminded of a place, person or thing from your past?

That’s olfactory memory: the recollections of odours.

For me, it’s the smell of books.

When I pick up a brand-new picture story book and breathe in its new book goodness, I’m immediately transported back to Miss Patterson’s book contacting club.

I remember all the book chatter we’d have as we sat around the library tables at our primary school, executing our best bubble-less contacting skills under the watchful eye of Miss Patterson.

I remember having first access to the Children’s Book Week Award shortlisted books AND being allowed to stand behind the book borrowing counter to check out other students’ books. I loved the cardboard filing system we used and the sound of the date stamp we’d press on the inside back cover of the book.

Ahhh yes, they were the privileges of being in such an esteemed club.

Bendigo Mobile Library
Unfortunately the mobile library service is no longer running.

When I smell an old book, one that’s been jammed between others for a long time on a musty shelf, I remember the weekly arrival of our town’s mobile library; a giant truck driven by a lady(!) who was also the librarian. She’d back into the parking lot in front of the town hall, run an extension lead to a power outlet and unfold the stairs for us to climb up, browse and borrow.

Miss Patterson and that mobile library both had a huge influence on my love of books and libraries. I’ve visited many libraries since those days and always dreamed of one day working in one.

Finally, my dream has come true… both my husband and I recently became librarians!

Street/community libraries

Castlemaine community library
The Castlemaine train station’s ‘Rolling Stock’

One of my first encounters with a street/community library was at the Castlemaine Railway Station. The bookshelf inside the waiting room, labelled ‘Rolling Stock,’ encouraged passengers to borrow a book, read it and return it to the shelves when they were finished. The thing that struck me was the checking out system: no cards or barcodes, just trust! (I don’t think Miss Patterson would have approved…).

I’d also came across bookcrossing years before. The idea was to set books free into the world and watch them travel via a book logging website. I released a few books at the time, but they seemed to disappear without a trace.

More recently, my husband and I came across a street library while walking our dogs. We looked at it from afar one day, stopped and peered inside the next and finally worked up the courage to exchange a book on the third inspection (good riddance to Eleanor Oliphant!)

Unfortunately, the house was sold and the book library disappeared. ‘What a shame,’ my husband said. ‘What an opportunity,’ my brain thought…

Building our own street library

Building our street library
The library became our Covid lockdown project.

Of course, there’s no need to go into the specifics of a husband and wife working on a flat pack building project that requires following specific instructions, is there? I mean, what challenges could possibly arise?

Anyway, there may have been some silent parts, but we got through it!

And then came the painting…

I scoured the web looking for inspiration (always seeking out mentors before diving in myself). I found some easy patterns that wouldn’t require too many tins of coloured paint and could get the job done quickly. My husband however, wasn’t having it; where I was about speed (‘let’s get this library out there in the street quickly’), he was about quality (‘let’s take the time to make it the best it can be’). *Groan*

We finally settled on a theme (Cat in the Hat) and Laurie took the time to create all the amazing artwork. Fine. I will admit it, the wait was worth it.

Living the librarian life

Street Library
The finished product.

We’ve been open for business for over two weeks now and we LOVE watching people stop in front of the house and browse the selection. We check in on the stock levels at LEAST once a day and celebrate the appearance of new books and the removal of others.

This thing is actually working!

Our current selection includes books for both children and adults and we even have a bottle of nice smelling hand sanitiser to use when browsing.

Our street library is officially registered with Street Library Australia. You can visit their website to find libraries near you.

Spreading the library love

Imagine if every community had its own street library, encouraging children and adults to access free books. We could establish community transmission of a love of books and the wonder of reading! (Now that IS worth spreading!)

As mentioned in my post on classroom libraries, the research on access to books is clear: the more access kids have, the more they will read, and the more they will enjoy doing it. So, let’s make it as easy as possible to access them!

Street Library Australia believe free community libraries are ‘a symbol of trust and hope- a tiny vestibule of literary happiness.’ Their mission is threefold:

  1. To encourage literacy
  2. To encourage community
  3. To get to 5000 street libraries by December 2021 (they currently have 2069)

How great would it be if schools could make up a significant part of the remaining 2931 street libraries needed to reach the goal of 5000?

You don’t need to buy the official flat pack to build your own library, you can get creative and develop your own. I’ve seen people use old fridges, cabinets, cupboards and even an old microwave!

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out the Street Library website. Who knows, maybe one day someone will write a post about the smell of books reminding them of how your library sparked their love of reading.

Do you have your own library or one near you? Do you have other ideas on ways we can get more books into the community? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or over on the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook group! (Or, if you totally disagree with me getting rid of Eleanor Oliphant (I’m talking to you Jan), you can try and convince me to have another go at reading it…)

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4 thoughts on “A Community transmission worth spreading”

  1. Paige said her nana runs the local library in Raywood. Paige’s nana Lyn also provides morning tea for anyone that pops into the library of a Monday morning

  2. In our small community we have a sharing pantry and a sharing library. It is based on working together and trust. Our community provides nourishment when needed, knowledge and entertainment. It is lovely to see how well our community shares long shelf life products and excess from vegetable gardens as well as a library of books. It’s been running for about 3 years and the community love it. it is set up in a waterproof cupboard at the end of a driveway. Dawn

    • Wow, Dawn. That sounds like such a great idea. What a caring community! I don;t have any pantry items in my library yet but I do have hand sanitiser and that hasn’t been taken by anyone so that’s a good start 🙂
      A loving and caring community is what we need in these tricky times, I only hope more people get to experience it.


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