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Little Free Libraries: The story behind those yellow newspaper stands on campus

Student Living by

Little yellow boxes have sprung up across campus over the course of October, filled to the brim with books. Dubbed Little Free Libraries (LFLs), these renovated stands are a new initiative to foster a sense of community and promote a love of reading across the community.

The mailbox-shaped boxes have a levered glass door that easily pulls open, making the use of LFLs around campus quite easy. Not only are all of the books in them free, but sifting through the books is a speedy process, and the collection housed in a LFL at any one time is constantly changing, through students’ giving and taking books. Anyone who wishes to use a stand just has to go to a location of a LFL, donate any book, and, in exchange, take whichever one they want from the dispenser. Avid readers may be surprised to find some true literary gems.

“Some of these books are worth over $150 and are often overlooked because people think they are outdated,” project co-founder and PhD candidate in Integrated Studies in Education Amelie Lemieux said.

The initiative was the brainchild of Lemieux and Merika Ramundo, McGill Library communications officer, who received financial support from a Sustainability Projects Fund through the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS). Both women believe there is a hunger for knowledge within McGill’s community, and for them, LFLs help satisfy that. By making books more accessible, LFLs encourage students and staff alike to read.

The idea behind the project came after Ramundo and Lemieux noticed a surplus of unwanted books at various library giveaways on campus, and recognized how much McGill students could gain from having easy access to free literature. Ramundo first came into contact with LFLs while on maternity leave, when her father built a stand and placed it in her front lawn.

“From there, my neighbors and I started exchanging books, CD’s, and other trinkets daily,” Ramundo said. “It was an easy way to stay engaged with the community and discover new artifacts that I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to find at my local convenience store.”

Lemieux encountered LFLs in another manner nearly two years ago, while walking around her Montreal neighborhood.

“I saw all these little free libraries in front of high schools, and thought that this would be a great project to implement at McGill,” Lemieux said. “One of the main reasons I thought this was because I had seen several book giveaways happening in front of the Redpath Library, and different professors leaving books in the hallways. So, I suggested the [LFLs] project to SPF and they accepted.”

The fact that LFLs are free and available for anyone to use opens many possibilities for the future growth of the project. As of now, McGill plans to install more stands in new locations around Montreal while maintaining the existing ones as permanent fixtures on campus.

As of right now, LFLs around campus are registered on an international network that pinpoints their location on a map posted online. The website helps spread the word about LFLs to both the McGill community and the city of Montreal.

“It is quite amazing that this idea that started from walking around my neighborhood has materialized into something this big,” Lemieux said. “If we call on the whole community to maintain the idea, it would be very cool.”


Currently on McGill downtown campus, you can find the LFL’s in:

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