start a street library
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How to Start a Street Library

Fancy yourself a budding librarian? Why not start a street library and share your joy of reading with your community?

Imagine being a librarian in charge of your very own library. Imagine having the chance to put books in front of people so they can learn new and inspiring things about the world, art, music and everything and anything.

Imagine if the library was at your place, and you get to see books come and go, read and exchange them.

Well, you can become a librarian when you start a street library! It’s really simple – all you need to do is find a place where you can set up a waterproof container to hold the books so that your neighbours can then come along and start to use the library.

street library

Here are three tips to help you start a street library

Start small and simple

Use something like an old Esky, which makes a perfectly waterproof container when placed on its side and attached to a fence. An old toolbox can be given a liftable lid and made waterproof, or you can build something out of second-hand materials.

Try to re-use what you already have

The best place to start is to have a look around the garage at home, then you can look at the street clean ups with a new eye for what you need. Of course, my favourite place is the tip shop or recycle centre, because then you are giving materials a second life instead of them going to landfill.

I found an old purpose-built communications box: it was perfect because it already had some shelves in it, a perspex door so people can see in it, and was pretty much a sealed box.

homemade library

Think outside the box

I put a back on the communications box and added a floor above the drawer.

Books are the key, but why not add some other extras? The drawer was perfect for a seed swap, so I have envelopes and a pen inside so people can leave seeds as well as take and plant the ones that I have left in there.

Then I thought, ‘what about the roof, how about a rooftop garden?’ so I filled a container with sun-loving succulents that will slowly cover the whole roof. There was one side of the library that was just a wall, so I figured why not turn it into a bug hotel to encourage pollinating insects to come and set up home and work in my garden.

Making a street library is a project that you can do using things from home, the tip, off the street and out of nature. Go on, start collecting and make a library with your signature all over it.

You can contact Street Libraries Australia so you can get an official number and sign, and to help make the sharing of books something that happens all over the country.

Images courtesy of Street Libraries Australia.

You can find the full version of this article in Issue #10 of Pip Magazine, availablehere.

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  1. If you absolutely must make a street library, please only supply books by dead authors. If you use books by living authors, you are denying them an income. Most authors make a dollar or so per book sold. If you buy a book and put it in the street library and 5 people read it, the author gets paid once. If you buy a book and recommend others buy it or borrow from a proper library and 5 people do, then the author gets paid 6 times. Encourage locals to use public libraries, maybe set up a community car pool and drive people to the public library to ensure that authors get paid through lending rights. Buying books from 2nd hand book store & all your money goes straight to the store owner and zero, yes $0 goes to the author. If you have books you want to get rid of, consider an underfunded school, or a women’s/men’s/ homeless shelter, or a prison. These street libraries are setting up the expectation that some people deserve to work for free for the entertainment, or comfort, of others.

    1. Goodness me NIcole, . I don’t think that it has to be an either/or solution as to what to do with books. Why not have all sorts of ways of people accessing books. I appreciate that authors might miss out on a fee whenever their book is sold but have you seen the sheer volume of books now available? There are SO many books, many completely useless, published each year that it is impossible for most of the authors to get anything much at all. Public libraries aren’t much good these days – in Tasmania where I live they were virtually ‘sold off’ to some sort of company that downgraded them all; the books were old and unloved. As for buying from 2nd hand book shops – I would far prefer people buy a book than NOT read. I am old enough to know that before Penguin paperbacks came out, most of us had very little chance of ever buying a book. Now paperbacks are almost trash – millions of books go to landfill every week – not much good for the authors there AND they add to our waste crisis. As for setting up the expectation that people work for free for entertainment and comfort of others – …isn’t that what we mothers do? I think your comment is MOST disappointing and somewhat limited in its scope. . I am definitely going to set up a free Library for books, seeds and anything else think others might like to avail themselves of!

  2. Hello, thank you I love Pip Magazine. I live in the city and work in health, within hospital and community as an educator and end of life doula practitioner. I recently launched a Neighbourhood Coffin Library – a Death Positive Movement Project – a library and resource for matters of EOL – and the response has been quite overwhelming. neighbours and friends appreciate being able to have a quick peek at a book that may be of interest to them, or they can borrow for a short period, and if they feel it would be helpful, relevant and supportive for them at the time, they can purchase their own copy. It has been an effective way to let people know that their local end of life doula practitioner, funeral celebrant, grief & bereavement guide lives here! My door is always open. I am passionate about building community capacity, and fortunate to be able to link hospital (Manager , Pastoral & Spiritual Care Department in a major hospital) and community together in unique ways.

  3. We have been running a free library since December 2020 at 19 Orchard Street Kilsyth Victoria. Books come and go. No rules or limits. The library is in a small bar fridge next to the People’s Pantry. It holds about 25 books and at the end of the month I swap them out for a new batch.

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