Alberni’s little library program gets a retail boost

When Artemis Books closed in mid-June, owner Kevin Wright saw potential for a free community library that would give back.

Kevin Wright

When one door closes, another one opens. That is what happened to the neighbouring storefront at Steam Punk Café recently.

When Artemis Books closed in mid-June, owner Kevin Wright saw potential for a free community library that would give back and help promote literacy.

Wright approached Graham Hughes, executive director of Literacy Alberni, who was immediately on board. He is confident of the viability of the library.

“Literacy Alberni has partnerships with First Book Canada and ICE Books so we get free books that are overstocked,” Hughes said.

Wright and Hughes filled the bookshelves that were already in place with books of all genres and have a large children’s section. The space is inviting as a place to browse or sit down to read. After Artemis Books closed, Wright wanted to continue having a complimentary reading area as part of the café.

“The model is based on “take a book, leave a book” and providing people with access to literature,” Hughes said.

With a low literacy rate of 42 per cent across Canada, he said he hopes an investment like this helps to promote access to books and reading.

“The number one barrier for people to access books is cost, so there are no barriers with this partnership,” he said.

The concept of the pay-it-forward movement is already working. Wright said often people who take one book have returned with two or three to donate. It isn’t just locals taking to the idea.

“People all over the world are enamoured with the idea,” Wright said. “We had an English tourist in reading a Canadian book and said he was ashamed he had to leave it here. I said he can take it and he didn’t feel right about it. He had four or five books in his car that he was reading on his trip so he went out and got them.”

Recently a box of about 60 good quality children’s books were brought in and within a short time, two-thirds of them went out the door. Children’s books are always most popular.

Others who do not have books on hand at the time and want to help can leave money in a donation box.

All funds raised will go back to Literacy Alberni for the purchase of new books.

The library is also putting Port Alberni on the map. It is listed on www.littlefreelibrary.org where users can search for its location, as well as others around the world.

Since its opening on July 1, Hughes said the response has been positive.

“I hope people see it as a key hub to donate books,” he said.

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