Give the gift of reading

27 Nov 2019 by Jonathan Foye in: Features

Street libraries are a way to share the love of reading with anyone who wishes to borrow a book and drop one in. Street libraries can be small shelves, repurposed fridges, or bigger cabinets. There are around 500 street libraries across Australia. As part of an international movement that has gained more traction recently, they are one way for churches to get involved in the life of their local community and to offer generosity and neighbourliness.

A number of Uniting Churches in NSW and the ACT are getting on board and offering free reading material.

Street libraries can present the chance for some churches to partner with other local organisations in their area. It is also a fantastic way to reach out to local community members.

For example, the Quarry Green Street Library is a joint venture of the Mustard Seed Op Shop (run by Mustard Seed Uniting Church) and Uniting Harris Community Centre. Ingrid Mueller, a Joint Coordinator of the Op Shop, came up with the idea for the street library in early 2017. Books were previously housed in cardboard boxes on tables provided by the Community Centre on the verandah of the Op Shop/Community Centre.

Early in 2019, Oscar Sanchez, Coordinator of the Community Centre, and Maree Burnett, Joint Coordinator of the Op Shop, decided to upgrade the boxes with something more permanent. The Pyrmont Ultimo Glebe Men’s Shed built and donated a new library, with local artist Alejandro Martinez (Peque) painting it. The library’s imagery takes inspiration from the mural on the western wall of the Centre that Mr Martinez previously painted.

There is no requirement, however, that a church needs to come up with a bespoke design, and street libraries can make use of existing and unused resources. Wagga Wesley Uniting Church have made use of an unused fridge to provide the community with books in an unusual way.

A great way to engage your local community is to consider what Turramurra Uniting Church have done, and set up a Facebook page for the street library. The Facebook group enables even more community engagement, enabling posting when new books are added, or even getting people to post reviews of books they have read.

Turramurra Uniting Church member Lara Fowler said the library came from an idea from one of their home groups and, “after a bit of research we commissioned the local men’s shed to build us a sturdy library which was painted and decorated by one of the group members, local artist Kobie Bosch. We had fun selecting an appropriate location and setting the post and have been excited to watch the library be stocked by the community.”

Street libraries can also provide the chance for youth groups to get involved in one of the church’s public-facing activities. For Dubbo Uniting Church in NSW’s Central West, the idea to offer a street library emanated from the church’s youth group Pray, Eat, Play (PEP). The group came up with the idea, and painted the street library.

Dubbo Uniting Church volunteer Elaine Drummond told local newspaper The Daily Liberal that the church was happy with how the street library was faring.

“We just felt it would be an outreach area to the Dubbo community,” she said. “We’re delighted.”

“It’s our gift to them.”

Some of the Uniting Churches with street libraries include:

For more information on street libraries, visit the official street library movement web page. We encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to register your street library on this website so people in your area know where the library is in your area.

We want to tell your stories

Your story matters to us at Insights, let us be part of it. Do you have a great community activity or event that your church engages in? We want to tell your stories so God’s mission in the world is visible to all. Email us photos, a brief description, contact details, dates, or anything you think might be relevant for others to know about what you’re doing.

Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor