Tag: used book stores

Our Little Libraries

I took a mini holiday last week and visited Coombs, a tiny village about a three hour drive from my home. While wandering the boutiques I saw this jumble of books through an open doorway. There were at least three more doors, all with teetering piles of used books. If anyone thought paper books were dead, think again. 

Since my own public library has removed most of its books and replaced them with computers and dvd’s my browsing ability has been hampered. So I have become a regular at used book stores and  “little libraries.” Those little neighbourhood “bring one/take one” stands have filled a need, not just for me, but for many. On lower Vancouver Island we have over 600 of them, which have received over 67,000 books. That’s just counting the “professional” supplier. No one knows how many volumes are off the shelf before they are counted. I heard that a copy of How to Knit and Felt with your Cat’s Fur was swooped up seven minutes after it landed in a little library.

The little libraries reflect the communities they inhabit. Fourteen of our 600+ include a seed drawer. Victoria is a city of gardens after all. Jigsaw puzzles and art supplies are also exchanged. 

used books galore in Coombs

In other words, the little libraries are meeting the needs of the community in a way the public library never did or could.

There are five of these delights within a one mile radius from my house so when I want something to read, it’s an easy walk. I’ve brought home all sorts of books — romance, history, travel, lifestyle, adventure, mystery — if I don’t like them, I can put them back and take something else. The freedom encourages me to take chances.

One of my latest picks turned out to be a gem.  I almost didn’t take it home. The title is Republic of Dirt and it looked as though someone had dropped it in the dirt. Still, the mule on the cover intrigued me.

The story has four narrators, each in the first person. Again I had doubts,  but the narrators turned out to be so engaging and so individual I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Not only that, the book had me laughing out loud. 

As a writer I can never leave off the editor’s hat when I’m reading, so much as I enjoyed this story, I also took a lesson from the author on creating unique voices for different characters. As a bonus, the story is set on Vancouver Island.

I so enjoyed this treasure from a little library, that I checked out the author and found she is a critically acclaimed writer, winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour for the book I’m reading. Her other works have been on best seller lists, and book of the year lists. A young adult series is being turned into a TV show. Since the book I read is the second in a series, I’ll recommend the first one to my book club for next year’s reading list.

So, three cheers for our little libraries who have kept books out of the landfill and put them into the hands of readers instead.

If you are lucky enough to have a little library in your neighbourhood, go check it out — you may find hidden treasure.

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The Life of Books

Beacon BooksI had to cull my keeper shelf recently.  Actually, I have more than one shelf but they were all full. How to divest oneself of books? Each one I took off the shelf inspired a memory or recalled an old friend or shouted “classic.” I kept putting them back. Eventually, I filled a shopping bag with books I’d gotten at workshops, old Christmas gifts and a few mistaken purchases. Then I made a trek to my local used book store. (Photo  above)

The whole experience got me thinking about the life of books. They come home from the book store all crisp and new — no coffee stains on the cover, no dog-eared pages. They have that new book smell. What a treat.new books

Some I will read over and over until the covers fall off. Some will get passed on to friends. Some will still be on the shelf when my executor has to get rid of them. Many, though, go to the used book store.

Beacon BooksOur town has a reputation for being a “book town,” so there are many used bookstores to choose from. The general one, seen here, is run by a woman who used to own a new book store. She’s a genius at knowing everything on the shelves and being able to put her hand on just the book for you. Every time I take in a bundle to drop off, I come out with others. My goal is to have a net reduction in books, but it’s not easy.

Haunted booksWe’ve also got this one — a more specialized store with lots of antique books, maps, globes . . . Another dangerous place for a book lover to spend time. Many of the offerings on these shelves are no longer available new. book caseNotice the shelves themselves are old-fashioned bookcases with the window that drops down to keep the dust off the shelf. This is a place to search out old records, travel journals, and historic photos — along with a few current spy novels.


book tower

remains of book tower

Russell BooksRussell’s in Victoria has just set a Guinness Book of Records for the tallest tower of Guinness Books. They reached six metres. You can see the remnants of the tower in this photo. The undertaking was to mark their move into new digs. The old store across the street was a bit of a rabbit warren, but with it’s own charm. The new store is spacious with an escalator so the hunt for your favourite author is not so daunting.

Then we have the “little” libraries popping up on street corners and rural cross-roads. These are charming little creations where one can leave a book or take a book. The inventory is limited and often eccentric, but still the books go on to another reader. There’s even a take and leave shelf at my husband’s marina.  Most thrift stores will accept a few volumes. No one likes to throw away a book, least of all me.

Sidney libraryOur local library has decided that books are low on its list of priorities. They want to be a community centre instead. For lovers of libraries, this policy is anathema. You can see in this photo that there is seating space and computer terminals but not much in the way of books. Maybe that’s why we have such a rich offering of second-hand book stores.

We used to have a book bin that accepted old books and distributed them to remote communities who were happy to have them in their libraries or schools. That service is now defunct so in my area, at least, books eventually end up in a recycle depot where they are trashed. I know the result is recycled paper, but it still makes me wince to think of a book becoming compost. 

E-books obviate the need to physically dispose of books we no longer want, but from the groaning shelves in our used book stores it seems the paper book is still popular. Where else will you get gilt-edged pages and engraved frontispieces?

So, my love affair with books goes on. What about you? What do you do with old books you can no longer keep?


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