As an avid reader, Hairini’s Karen Williamson jumped at the chance to set up a neighbourhood book exchange outside her front gate six months ago.
The bright yellow box on Wickham Place, highlighted with blobs of blue, green and red, holds about 30 books at any one time.
Users are encouraged to swap one book for another – take one, leave one – but you can also just take a book if you don’t have one to swap.
Karen got the ‘little free library’ from an acquaintance, Kerri Price, who also has one outside her business on Botanical Road in central Tauranga.
Little Free Libraries is a world-wide movement to inspire a love of reading by fostering neighbourhood book exchanges. Millions of books are exchanged each year, increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
There are several Little Free Libraries dotted around Tauranga, including Otumoetai Road, Levers Road, Matua, and another in an old red telephone box, also in Matua. Omokoroa has one along The Esplanade called ‘The Mussel Library’.
Karen says because she is a reader herself, she believed in the concept.
“We had a little bit of trouble with kids pulling the books out to start with, but it’s working really well now and last week someone left us some apple cucumbers,” she says.
“I think it’s great because we read books once and then they just sit there, so it’s good to be able to swap them. And most people do swap them; I rarely have to top up now.”
Karen has a suitcase of donated books on standby, but would welcome donations of more children’s books as there are a number of children in her neighbourhood who check the box.
Kerri says as well as being a place to share books, the Little Free Libraries are a space to bring people together in the community.
“Some people do it quite formally, with library cards in the back of the books,” says Kerri, “but ours is very much take one, leave one, and if you don’t have one, take one anyway.
“We’re located opposite a kindy so we get lots of kids’ books. Sometimes we get DVDs donated too.
“We have quite a few elderly people on our street and for some it has become a bit of a routine – on a certain day they’ll come and swap their books.
“I’ve also seen whole families gathering around it. It always surprises me when I check on it to see how much of the content has changed over.”