Written By Carly Pender, Thrive
Kevin Bentley is building libraries in his Highland Park backyard – little libraries, that is. They’re cubes made of wood. Each designed to house a dozen or so books, they’re barely bigger than the average microwave.
“I’ll just make as many as I have lumber and time,” he says.
Kevin’s libraries were inspired by the Little Free Library project, which began in the American Midwest. The idea is that little library owners mount the structures on their lawns and fill them with books. Passersby can borrow a book and return it when they’re finished. Hopefully local book lovers have conversations along the way.
Over the next six weeks Kevin will be looking for book lovers to “adopt” 20 of his creations for free. His finished products will only be primed, leaving room for new library owners to personalize their boxes with paint and other decorations.
“All the artistic work is up to others,” he says. “Your imagination is your limit.”
Since the initiative began in 2009, little libraries have been popping up around the world. Last year, when the first boxes appeared in Calgary, Kevin decided to put his woodworking skills to good use. The Calgary Foundation and City of Calgary were behind him.
“The libraries are a means of getting people circulating around the community,” Kevin says. “I’m just trying to make it a better place.”
He notes that the City has named Highland Park one of eight priority neighbourhoods in need of social and recreational interventions. The Strong Neighbourhood/Neighbourhood of Promise initiative aims to decrease poverty and increase neighbourhood capacity and social connections, among other variables.
Kevin says that in addition to supporting literacy, the libraries also have the power to spark economic development.
“You can keep the dollars in the community,” he says, explaining that all the materials for the project can be purchased in Highland Park. The concept would also make a great micro-enterprise for someone who wanted to sell the libraries, he says.
Each library is slightly different, Kevin says. A lot of thought goes into each design because he doesn’t have the luxury of working with new lumber. His found materials force him to be creative with the shapes and sizes of every library.
It seems the leader of Highland Park’s little libraries project was a good candidate for the job – he knows his subject well.
“I love books,” he says. “My family probably has a few thousand books between us.”
Interested in learning more about little libraries? Contact Kevin Bentley at firstname.lastname@example.org