Up until the end of July, Andy Falkiner’s little free library looked the part of an idyllic book nook.
Situated at the end of her driveway at 5933 182 Street in Cloverdale, the little library featured a dollhouse full of Falkiner’s favourite books, two reclining porch chairs and a dog bowl of water. In front of the bookshelves, a chalkboard sign invited passers by to come and borrow her books.
But on Tuesday, July 31, someone took the two chairs from Falkiner’s library.
“I don’t think that many people sat on them,” she said. “But the whole look of it was a nice little scene.”
Upset, Falkiner posted about the theft on the Cloverdale Crime Watch Facebook group. But now, she’s says the theft has helped further the message of what her little free library is all about: community.
“In a way she’s done me a favour,” Falkiner said about the woman she saw taking the chairs on security footage. “Because new people in the neighbourhood have gotten in touch” to offer books and support.
And that, Falkiner said, was why she decided to create the library in the first place.
“I think a neighbourhood should be a better place because we are in it, not a worse place,” she said.
“I thought, well, this might be a good way to promote that sort of thing too,” she continued. “More community, and get to know some more people.”
The library has been up and running since the beginning of June, taking frequent donations from Falkiner’s book buying trips as neighbours have begun borrowing the books. In the last month, it has taken on a life of its own.
“You know when your little free library is successful because people start bringing stuff back,” she said, looking at the stacks of books in the shelves. “So this is just a hodgepodge of people’s offerings.”
“For me, that just delights me.”
The library is often used by families with children, Falkiner said, with children’s books being in high demand. But novels are popular too, and Falkiner is happy to chat with anyone who’s stopping by to borrow them.
“I’ve met the most extraordinary people through this,” she said. “They come up and if I’m outside I’ll come up and have a chat with them, just kind of shoot the breeze. It’s really lovely.”
The popularity and people around the library inspired Falkiner to take her community-building efforts even further. At the beginning of July, Falkiner hosted an English tea party in her driveway.
She set up tables and chairs up near the road, set with china and cakes. A friend helped her decorate the area in pink and white bunting.
“I was really in trepidation about it,” Falkiner recalled. “The library just stays there, but to actually participate knowing that you may actually have some response here. Oh my gosh.”
She needn’t have worried. Fourteen people came to the tea party, and although few people knew each other, “they all interacted. We had some good laughs,” she said.
With the success of the library and the tea party under her belt, Falkiner is thinking to the next event: a reading night for kids three to eight and their parents, held in Falkiner’s picturesque front lawn. She’s hoping that will take place sometime in August, but hasn’t made any concrete plans.
Until then, and likely after, the library will continue on, providing books and community to the people in Cloverdale’s suburban neighbourhood.
As for the chairs?
“I can replace the chairs, and I probably will,” Falkiner said. “I’ve got a couple of pink ones I’ll throw out here.”