Residents of the RM of Stuartburn used to have to drive a long way to check out a library book. Now, they don’t even have to start the car.
Six miniature libraries have popped up in villages across the municipality over the past two months.
The project, two years in the making, is the brainchild of Gardenton-based botanist Laura Reeves, who spotted her first little library while travelling.
"It just seemed like it was a great way to bring a community together," she said.
She was reminded of the small structures one day at the laundromat in Vita, when she began paging through a book that was lying around. Absorbed, she took it home and finished it, then passed it on to a friend, who informed her that he was the one who put it there in the first place. Back to the laundromat it went.
The closest public library for RM of Stuartburn residents is in St Pierre. Hours of operation are limited and out-of-town membership fees may present a barrier to some patrons. Little libraries, on the other hand, are free, accessible, and open 24-7.
"Here you can come at three in the morning if you want to get a book," Reeves said.
She approached Shevchenko School to see if the industrial arts students there would build some little libraries. The school leapt on board.
Students constructed little libraries for Vita, Sundown, Zhoda, Stuartburn, and one for Tolstoi, just across the line in Emerson-Franklin. Reeves said the students should be proud of the skills they developed and the contributions they made to each community.
Local artist Hanna Brandt, a friend of Reeves’, built a sixth little library for Gardenton.
Brandt, who works with watercolours, acrylic, oil, leather, felt, and wood, built her little library out of leftover pine trim and added a red tin roof. There’s even a little attic for DVDs.
Reeves lined up stewards in each community who will look after the libraries. She had initially hoped to organize community paint parties to decorate each library, but the pandemic put the brakes on that. But she didn’t want the pandemic to delay installation.
"Let’s just get them up because people really need more books right now. I’ve talked to a few people who are like, ‘I’ve exhausted everything, I have nothing to read anymore,’" Reeves said.
Last Thursday, she and Brandt peeked inside the Gardenton library, installed beside the mailboxes, and were delighted to see it filling up with a wide variety of titles.
Reeves has applied to register the libraries with littlefreelibrary.org, a website that maintains a database of more than 75,000 little libraries worldwide.
In the Southeast, little libraries have already been registered in Steinbach, Oakbank, Kleefeld, New Bothwell, Landmark, Lorette, Ste Anne, Richer, and Vivian.