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Winnipeg's first Little Free Library turning one

More than 4,000 new libraries join network in last year

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Charlene Roziere said she’s not obsessive…well, maybe just a little.

The co-owner of Winnipeg’s first Little Free Library (LFL), which marks its one-year anniversary at 273 Mandeville St. on June 28, has a ledger she uses to track the books that come and go from her front-yard repository for readers.

"I just like seeing what moves, and then if we don’t have that particular genre I go to the thrift store," Roziere said.

The most popular title among the 1,070 books taken from the doll-house-sized library as of last week? Charlotte’s Web, with eight copies in circulation.

Most books taken don’t come back, Roziere said, which is fine.

"We tend to get new (used) books in their place, which is good."

Roziere updates a Facebook page, titled Little Free Library #1849, with current available titles.

She also uses her ledger to track the growth of LFLs in Winnipeg: #2873 at 3354 Assiniboine Ave., #5593 at 503 Gilmore Ave., #6328 just registered last week on Kingston Crescent, and two more coming soon in the Unicity and Garden City areas, she said.

The LFL movement was born in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 when Todd Bol built one for his front yard.

Since then, Bol has teamed up with friend Rick Brooks to promote the idea as a non-profit entity, and they’ve registered more than 6,000 libraries worldwide.

On the phone from Hudson last week, Bol said there’s at least 1,000 more LFLs they don’t know about.

"People get excited and they just put them up," he said.

He and Brooks, who send out library "steward" kits for $34.95 US which include a "charter sign" etched with a library number, were able to start drawing a salary for their full-time efforts earlier this year.

Libraries can be purchased through the website (littlefreelibrary.org) or prospective proprietors can follow the instructions on the site to build their own. About 25% of library stewards purchase one, while the rest build, Bol said.

The website also features an interactive map that displays addresses of registered libraries in such far-flung places as Lithuania and Pakistan.

Bol credits the rapid growth of the movement to an unexpected side benefit that he uses a disaster metaphor to explain.

"People come together. They don’t care about your religion or age or political background, they don’t care about any of that stuff," Bol said.

"That’s kind of what happens in disasters, but Little Free Libraries seem to bring that part of a community out, without there being a disaster."

Roziere said the LFL in her front yard has brought a lot of people into her life.

She and husband Jess McMahon, who built their LFL himself, have families regularly drop by from outside their St. James neighbourhood.

A local daycare also stops to visit, she said.

"They camp out on the front lawn and read a couple and swap a couple, it’s really nice."

Roziere said some people browse books and then don’t take one. She wonders if they feel it’s wrong to take a book because they don’t have one to leave.

"They don’t have to have a book with them… it’s not an issue, they can always take one."

For those who do bring a book to swap, Roziere’s four-year-old daughter Avery said she appreciates the princess books most of all.

When asked what she would say to people about the LFL, Avery thought carefully for a moment, and was visibly happy when the answer came to her.

"You can come to our Little Free Library any day."

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Twitter: @metroWPG

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