Jacqueline Ashby has crafted her living room into a welcoming learning environment for her three-year-old son.

Jacqueline Ashby has crafted her living room into a welcoming learning environment for her three-year-old son.

Little Free Library hopes to solve big problems

An Abbotsford mom has successfully crowd-funded her project to bring a Little Free Library to her community.

Jacqueline Ashby’s home is sunny, modest, and welcoming. Walking into her small living room by the big window, one could think that she has many more kids than just the one. Every wall and surface is designed with the child’s learning brain in mind. One wall serves as backdrop for a little bookshelf at ideal height for Ashby’s three-year-old son. Because he is a Dr. Seuss fan, there is a picture of a Wazzit in the closet and a Glock by the clock. The coffee table has a four-piece tray to inspire sensory development. There is sticky rubber dough, and cold rocks, for a child to discover.

Ashby, who holds a doctorate in education from Simon Fraser University, has devoted her career to promoting learning. It’s this love of literacy, and her community spirit, that has motivated Ashby to set up a Little Free Library in Abbotsford.

“It promotes literacy. It encourages a sense of community. A lot of people on the street still don’t know each other. It gets people out and talking to one another,” said Ashby.

A Little Free Library is generally a small wooden box perched within the community, full of books that residents can borrow for free. There’s no sign out process, no maximum check out time.

Ashby launched an online fundraising campaign on Kickstarter to fund the $365 project. When the bidding closed on Oct. 9, 2013, a total of 65 backers gave Ashby $791, over double her initial goal.

This is the first such library for the Fraser Valley. The other closest is in Surrey. There are eight LFLs scattered across B.C., and over 10,000 globally.

The idea is to give residents one more way to access books. Although there are three public libraries in Abbotsford, residents must find a way to commute to them, and are restricted by hours of operation, usage rules, due dates, fines.

Ashby’s LFL will be forever open, staked on her front lawn in the serene residential neighbourhood in the hills of Sumas mountain. Ashby will maintain the books, continually replenishing the supply and ensuring kid-friendliness.

The system is a classic ‘take a book, leave a book.’

“You would hope, if somebody values a good book, that after they’re done reading it they’ll return it,” said Ashby.

She expects some books won’t return, but that’s alright as long as people are reading.

Twelve to fifteen of Ashby’s favourites will go into the all-ages library first, from Judy Bloom, to Shel Silverstein, to Kurt Vonnegut, to Margaret Atwood.

“I’d like to have a balance between supporting adult and children’s literacy,” she said.

In Canada, 42% of adults have low literacy skills, according to Canadian Literacy and Learning Network. Fewer than one-fifth of people with the lowest literacy skills are employed.

But a Little Free Library is expected to do more than promote literacy. Ashby, a regular community organizer, wants to create connections between neighbours as well.

“When you install one of these structures in a neighbourhood, the idea is that people will bump into each other, children will bump into each other, in the exchange of books,” she said.

The Rotary Club of Abbotsford-Sumas likes the project as well. It has partnered with the City of Abbotsford to install similar LFLs in the same city parks as the rotary club installed playgrounds. Bente Hansen, chair of the club’s literacy committee, expects that three or four LFLs will be up before the end of 2013.

Vancouver, for example, has a growing network of LFLs in public places, housed in repurposed metal newspaper boxes painted red.

Ashby was able to obtain funding for her Abbotsford LFL because of Kickstarter. The crowd-funding website allows anybody with an idea to pitch their project to the world and request donations. When the site launched in Canada on Sept. 9, 2013, Ashby’s library was one of the first projects up. Her well-designed page, complete with video, research on literacy in Canada, and incentives, was picked up by Kickstarter as a featured project. When Ashby woke up the day after the launch, her project was fully funded.

The support Ashby received online was as globalized as Kickstarter itself. Money flowed in from like-minded people from all over Canada and the U.S., and as far as France, Germany, and Israel – people who were even not directly benefitting from the project.

“It’s been overwhelming to get that kind of support. I know I wasn’t asking for a lot of money, but it meant a lot to me to see that people believed in an idea that I believed in as well,” said Ashby.

Not every Kickstarter project gets funded, but the exposure for people with ideas is valuable in itself.

“It’s a positive venue for people who want to create, who want to design, who want to make an impact,” said Ashby. “I think it’s been a great platform to further get this concept out into the public consciousness, so people are aware of it…For me, it’s linked me globally to the rest of the world.”

With the funds, Ashby is purchasing materials to build and install Abbotsford’s first Little Free Library. She has been putting effort into the design to make it watertight, sturdy, resistant to mold, and decorative.

An official launch party is expected in December.

akonevski@abbynews.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski

Just Posted

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

A program of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation enables patients to thank their health-care workers.
Fraser Valley program enables patients to say thanks to their health-care workers

Philip Harris Grateful Patient Program offered through health care foundation

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Emergency services were on the scene of an apparent stabbing Friday afternoon (June 11) in the 2400 block of Countess Street in Abbotsford. (Photo: Kaytlin Harrison)
Two suspects arrested after apparent stabbing in Abbotsford

Incident occurs Friday afternoon in 2400 block of Countess Street

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read