Little Free Libraries and Scotiabank team up to eradicate ‘book deserts’

Since 2012, the Little Free Libraries movement has encouraged people to « pick up a book, share a book, » with more than 150,000 book pens in neighborhoods around the world, including the South Pole.

For the second year in a row, they’re teaming up with Scotiabank to eradicate what they call “book deserts” in Canada.

“A book desert is a geographic area that has little or no access to books. So there could be no public libraries, no bookstores, no little free libraries,” says Sharon Gifford, director of corporate partnerships at Little Free Library. « There are many areas where access to books is a problem…and one of the biggest keys to literacy is access to books. »

The organization, in partnership with Scotiabank, works to install small free libraries in areas that do not have easy or affordable access to books. The program’s book sharing boxes are aptly called “book banks” and are currently located in several Scotiabank branches, filled with books vying for the prestigious Giller Prize.

« Following the announcement of the Scotiabank Giller Prize winner on November 7, we will transform these libraries into ‘book deserts’…and we will also ease the financial burden of setting up these libraries, » says the chief of the Scotiabank Global Arts and Culture Team. , Ryan Burella.

Such a library has already been installed in Keswick, Ontario.

“Keswick was determined to be a book wasteland because we looked at that specific location, proximity to a public library, proximity to an affordable bookstore, and also there is a lack of small free libraries in that community” , explains Burella. “The steward for whom we built this library always wanted a small free library, but the cost was prohibitive to have one installed and maintained. That’s why we wanted to bring a small free library to this place.

The steward is local resident Samantha Cannarella, who will help maintain the book bank, located in a central location near the area’s community mailbox.

“A lot of locals who live here, not all of them, but some of them don’t drive. They can’t walk to the library because it’s far,” she told CityNews. “So that was one of the main reasons why I wanted [a little free library] – to have an impact on children, getting them to communicate better and educate themselves, as well as the elderly.

Cannarella says people of all ages use the book bank and she’s proud of the contribution she’s made to her small community.

“I feel like I did a good deed – it brings us all together and brings the community together. I feel good about it,” she says.

The first small free library in Antarctica. Credit: Yuya Makino, Ice Cube Project. Courtesy of Russel Schnell.

Eight more book banks will be set up in underserved communities and an additional 3,000 Giller Prize-selected books will be donated to existing small free libraries across the country.

“Access to books of such exciting, quality literature – which should be open to everyone, regardless,” says Gifford. “If you can buy the book yourself, that’s fine. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to do this. Not everyone has the luxury of having a nearby and accessible public library.

“The mission here in the partnership is to really bring this incredible literature and incredible authors and make it accessible and break down barriers for people,” adds Burella. « Reading a good book inspires you, opens your mind, and we truly believe in the power of books and the power of these Canadian storytellers. »

Gifford says his dream is that one day « book wastelands » will be eradicated entirely.

« Before I retired [I hope] that every person who wants a small free library can have a small free library. Again, access to books is key to literacy, and access to these amazing award-winning titles shouldn’t be limited,” she says.

« Books are incredible stories and perspectives, and to be able to open up your world through the pages of these books is just amazing. »


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