My Street Library on Delgado sits on a busy corner outside our home in a small northern coastal suburb in Perth, Western Australia. It is readily accessible for people making their way home or visiting the Iluka foreshore and beach close by. I guess I can blame social media for homing in on my reading passion when little libraries started popping up all the time on my newsfeed, particularly during the initial Covid-19 outbreak where people’s movements were restricted. I took it as a sign for a new project and a small way to spread a little happiness. Books can help children (and adults) deal with their emotions as well as provide escapism, and a break from screens. Stories are also an amazing way to learn empathy as they encourage children to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Personally, reading has always brought me great joy, and I would even say it was life changing as a child. I have a collection of around 500 books in my own home library (no kindle for me!), and a separate 300 or so books stored in my garage for the street library. I am ever grateful for the regular quality book donations from our community, family, and friends. Facebook marketplace, secondhand book shops and book fairs are also great ways to source books. I especially love children’s books and these seem to disappear the fastest, so I am always on the lookout for new little gems for the library.
My initial worries of vandalism have been unfounded, and I am reminded of a quote, “The reader does not steal, and the thief does not read,” from an Iraqi book market, where books are left out on the streets overnight and rarely vandalized or stolen. Two of my favourite street librarian moments are when a Woolworths delivery driver stopped his truck near the library to get out and look for a book, and when my son’s Uber driver decided to look for a book after a drop-off in the early hours of the morning. The Street Libraries movement in Australia and the Little Free Library movement in the US are doing great things for the community and literacy in general, and it brings me great pleasure to see and hear of people enjoying my little library, as well as seeing the books be recycled and the stories continue to live on.
By Sharon Middleton