WHO WE ARE
We are a bi-national couple (she: Brazilian, 52, language teacher / he: French, 56, engineer) without kids but with two major passions: books and classic cars. We have a personal library with more than 4,000 books including some originals from the 16th century on.
We know how important books can be to change people ́s lives and for a long time have wanted to do our part to contribute. We live in a 12-floor apartment building and in 2017 we decided to use an idle space in the hall of our floor as an area dedicated to book-sharing between neighbours. All we did was install a bookcase filled with good books in mint condition and a cozy couch and the idea was promptly accepted and loved by our neighbours.
OUR FIRST LITTLE FREE LIBRARY (PRAÇA JAPUBÁ)
We live in Brazil but travel very often to France to visit friends and relatives and during one of these trips we saw for the first time a “boîte à lire” in a small village in Bretagne. We loved the idea and decided to install one in the square in front of our building. My husband is very good at DIY and the only condition he imposed was that the little free library be build ONLY using recycled material found in the garbage. So we spent weeks looking for the right type of wood and other parts we needed in the garbage in different parts of the city. This was February 2018.
ADVERTISING THE LITTLE FREE LIBRARY
Our “casinha de troca de livros” (little book-exchange house) was ready and installed. Now we
needed people to know about it and to start using it. I distributed flyers in the neighbourhood (was even bit by dogs during this mission) and followed someone ́s advice: “advertise it on Facebook !”. I didn ́t have a FB account at the time and had no idea how it worked. I invented a pseudonym. After coming up with a name and creating a page for our casinha, the dice were thrown. We chose “LIVROS LIVRES da Praça Japubá” (Japubá Square FREE BOOKS) for two reasons: LIVRES means at the same time “free” (as in they are free to go where they wish and nobody owns them) and “books” in French. We also posted pics in FB neighbourhood groups and our casinha was an immediate success.
Since I did not want to expose myself personally when I created my FB profile, I invented a pseudonym. It had to be a literary character fond of books, hence Emma Bovary. Another reason for not appearing as a real person linked to the LIVROS LIVRES project (we never even appear on photos !) is that we consider the project to be of more relevance than who is behind it. We want LIVROS LIVRES da Praça Japubá to be known and not Peter or John or Mary or Sue.
PRAÇAS VICENTINA DE CARVALHO AND PROVÍNCIA DE SAITAMA
The concept of little free libraries is not widespread in Brazil, let alone in our neighbourhood. People living in squares not far from Japubá wanted a casinha in their squares as well and started to contact us. We came to an agreement: they would raise the funds to build their casinhas and I would be responsible for them from then on, choosing and organizing the books, asking for and receiving book donations, organizing events, maintenance, in short, everything a little free library steward does. This is how the two other casinhas came to be in 2019. They are in a 2-km radius from Japubá. A fourth square is about to have its casinha inaugurated.
Alto de Pinheiros is an upper-class neighbourhood in the West region of São Paulo, Brazil ́s largest city. People who live here have a high education level and the means to visit libraries and bookstores and buy their own books, but surprisingly, since we installed the casinhas, neighbours claim they have read more.
We also feel the casinhas have helped create a link between neighbours. But this is not what makes us happiest. As I said, we live in an upper-class neighbourhood and most families have employees such as gardeners, housemaids, cooks, masons, security guards, who have a low level of education and live in the outskirts of the city, with little or no access to books. Thanks to the casinhas, books have reached this second group of people. We have often seen them taking books home for their kids as well.
As I explained above, our two passions are books (and now “casinhas”) and classic cars. The casinhas have been an opportunity to conciliate both interests. We take a tour of the casinhas every two or three days to see if everything is ok and to supply them with books in case they are empty. We always do this in one of the 6 classic cars of our collection. Naturally, our yellow 1973 VW Camper Bus is my favourite and it has become our so-to-say trademark. People recognize us from far and know we ́re arriving with new books.
WHAT NEXT ?
We have not limited our project to the book-exchanging casinhas. Our FB page started as a means to let people know when the casinhas got new books but we also post anything related to books in general, other LFLs, reading, literature and the editorial market. We now have more than 800 followers, a 10-member reading club that meets every two months, frequent book giveaways, and we organized a “Caminhada das casinhas”, which was a group walk on a Sunday morning from casinha to casinha, with a different attraction at each stop (poetry reading, storytelling for kids etc). We can ́t stop thinking about new ideas to bring more people to our casinhas and make them read more!