MUSKOKAN — A new building went up on Paint Lake that’s attracting a lot of attention.
Today, there are hundreds of the libraries around the world, and the founders say the aim is to build more than 2,510
Roughly the size of a large mailbox and bearing a striking similarity to the home located just behind it, the tiny green building is the newest structure in this quiet Muskoka neighbourhood. Packed with books and magazines, the building, located at 1180 Paint Lake Road in Lake of Bays, is Muskoka’s first, and currently only, Little Free Library.
Part of an international project started in Wisconsin and now active in more than 20 countries, Little Free Library builders aim to further literacy in their communities by making books easy to acquire.
Joanne Kourtz, the creator of Muskoka’s Little Free Library, said that as someone with a degree in English who taught special education reading for many years, she wanted to continue to promote reading.
“It’s just out there so people can borrow books, bring books and just support free circulation of books,” said Kourtz. “People come by Ski-Doo, ATV and the walkers are very good at dropping in.”
Located near the Paint Lake Covered Bridge Walking Trail, the library contains an interesting collection of reading material. Authors presently represented include Nora Roberts, Dean Koontz and Jayne Ann Krentz. Due to the take-a-book, leave-a-book philosophy and Kourtz’s commitment to maintaining high quality books in the library, the collection is in a constant state of change.
Along with being made to resemble the Kourtz’s home, the Paint Lake library had to be specially designed to deal with the sometimes harsh Muskoka weather.
“Ours is winter proof so we didn’t get any snow on the books. It has a little bit of an overhang and a really good seal on the door so the books can stay out there all winter,” said Kourtz.
Put up just after Christmas last year, the plan is to keep the library stocked with books all year round.
Kourtz doesn’t intend to stop at just one Little Library. She is currently working on plans for two more in the area that will be going up shortly.
The first new library will be located right at the Paint Lake Covered Bridge so that people on the popular walking trail can have even easier access. Designed by Ron Doyle, a friend of Kourtz, the covered bridge library will resemble the bridge and should be in place in the next few weeks.
“A new children’s playground opened in Dorset and (a Little Free Library) is going to be placed up there as well,” said Kourtz. ”That way, while the kids play, the mothers can read, and there will be magazines and children’s books in there.”
The Muskoka area libraries, which have so far been designed to look like tiny versions of some of the region’s architecture, are keeping in line with the tradition started by the first-ever Little Free Library. Located in Hudson, Wisconsin, the first library looks like a mini, one-room schoolhouse and was built in memory of the founder’s mother, a former teacher and book lover.
Today, there are hundreds of the libraries around the world and the founders of the project say the aim is to build more than 2,510. That goal was set because it is one more than the total number of libraries built as a result of donations from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Word about the library is getting around Muskoka, said Kourtz, and every now and then someone will stop her and say that they have books they would like to donate.
Kourtz’s husband Peter said that the library has already attracted a significant amount of attention.
“I see people almost every day out there looking at it. I imagine as summer comes more and more people will be stopping by,” said Peter. “It’s just so convenient. If they have a good book they can leave it there; somebody else can enjoy it.”
Kourtz believes that there is potential for even more little libraries in the region. She thinks that if the crafters at the local farmers markets started selling the libraries, then you might see more people setting up their own.
For anyone interested, littlefreelibrary.org offers advice and support for prospective librarians. The site has tips for the best location to place a library, a map of all the officially recognized libraries and even sells a variety of little libraries.
“It’s a way to reuse your old books, get them recycled and keep people interested in reading,” said Peter. “I think it can really attract a lot of people who for one reason or another are not reading a lot right now. They walk by, see something of interest and they can just grab it and take it home.”