Sharing footpath stories

On an early morning stroll through the inner west Sydney suburb of Stanmore a year or so ago, I came upon my first street library. For those who may not have yet seen a street library, it is a place where books can be shared with those in your local community; a cupboard or box on a local street filled with books for reading, perhaps returning and taking another, or if you really loved it, perhaps for keeping! And street libraries love donations. It may be that as you’ve passed by, you have noticed one without realising what it was.

I knew nothing of the street library movement at the time, and being uncertain as to what the protocol was, I pondered, admired and moved on. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the street library movement some months later fired my imagination, and this time I determined to create my own street library. Books have been an important and central part of my life since childhood and the thought of managing my own small ‘library’ filled me with delight.

It took some time to find a suitable repository for the library, but as soon as I saw the small yellow cupboard - coincidentally painted the same shade as our house and front fence - I knew I’d found my library. I initially raided my own collection of books but, having pared back my own book collection ruthlessly over the years, I felt unable to part with any more of the few hundred books I still had left. I did not ask my husband for his opinion on this matter! I then sent out a call to my family and book club buddies for any books they might wish to donate, and once I felt I had a suitable collection I was in business.

The books in my library have come and gone, sometimes have returned and then have gone again. I’ve had Booker Prize and other award winners pass through, been introduced to authors I’ve never heard of and had the chance to read the book after I’ve seen the film! I’ve had a selection of crime, history, fantasy, drama, action and adventure, literature, romance and children’s books. This week I’ve even had my first cook book - a Marie Claire no less! The trap of course for a book lover such as myself is that some of the donations I’ve received have yet to make it to the street, leading to an ever increasing pile of books by my bedside!

Like any involvement in the community, I’ve got back more than I’ve put in. I enjoy the comings and goings of the books and feel a deep sense of contentment when I see the library has been plundered! I have three boxes of books waiting to take their place and I enjoy the daily traipse to the library to see what’s happened throughout the day. Occasionally I meet some of the patrons of my street library and very much enjoy the ensuing conversation and book recommendations.

The library sits expectantly and patiently at our front gate. All it asks is that you take a look… and hopefully a book!

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Jane Dunn

Jane is the Tribunal Director for the Maitland-Newcastle diocese Marriage Tribunal. 

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