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A Neighbourhood Full of Readers

a Little Free Library box

Photo via [Oak Bay News](

I haven't been super impressed with the Greater Victoria Public Library since we moved out west last year. Likely this is because the Regina Public Library is stellar, both on its own and via the network connection with all Saskatchewan libraries.

Back in Saskatchewan, it seemed I could order up any book under the sun from the RPL website, from new releases to older 'classics' and it would be delivered to my branch within a fortnight. But the collection in Victoria seems pretty dated and oversubscribed. More often than not, they don't have the book I'm looking for, and if they do, I'm a dozen people deep in the queue. (I'm currently #82 on the list for Bill Bryson's latest, a year after publication.)

Add Covid to the mix and that spells big trouble. They don't have the book you want in the online catalogue and you're not allowed to browse the stacks looking for adjacent inspiration. Not great.

The library seems to be the last service, public or private, to re-open from Covid here. 600 student elementary schools are open but the stacks are closed. The GVPL has shrunk back to being book distribution hubs, and they seem to prefer ebooks. It's a shame, really. One that they might not recover from.

So my reading habits are changing. What we lack in a strong public library system we make up for in a substantial network of little book libraries. That's the tiny bookhouses people put in their front yards where you can take a book and leave a book. It's been a lifesaver for Cindy and me.

Every walk in the neighbourhood takes us past a couple little houses, where we browse, pick up new finds and drop off books we've read.

It's an eclectic mix, for sure, but there are gems in this constantly recycled collection. From John Grisham to Jane Jacobs. Biographies, magazines, textbooks and trade fiction.

We found a new box on the weekend and I picked up two fun titles: The Accidental Entreprenuer: 50 things I wished someone had told me about starting a business (autographed copy) and The best of Modern Humour circa 1987, edited by Mordechai Richler.

Both books make me smile; I tend to intersperse a chapter of each when I sit down to read, which adds to my fun.

I try to return the books as soon as possible, always to a different house than where I found it. The box by Fisherman's Wharf tends toward non-fiction; I drop those books off on Cook St, which leans toward thriller novels. Gotta mix things up.

I think of myself as an evangelist, spreading the Word around the neighbourhood. Or maybe I'm a host/carrier and the books are a parasite, needing to continually travel to new minds.

Either way, I love seeing these ideas spread. And I love nothing more than discovering a new box, unless perhaps it's seeing fresh additions into one of our regular bookboxes.

Every walk has become a literary adventure in addition to a natural adventure. And I love that.