Little Free Library in Upper Glanmire shows best of community spirit

Upper Glanmire’s Little Free Library has been busy in recent weeks. With parents and children both at home, reading has seen a boom around the country, and a lot of the interest is in books for the kids.

“About a week and a half ago, I had to put out the call and let people know that there was only one kid’s book left in the Little Library, but thankfully we were re-stocked in no time,” Rob Kenny, the designer and driving force behind Upper Glanmire’s Little Free Library, explained to The Avondhu.

“The Little Free Library is exactly what you would expect it to be. No bigger than a bedside cabinet, the Little Library still manages to hold a generous array of books for the avid reader.

“The second aspect of the initiative is that the books are entirely free. It’s based on the simple idea of an exchange, Rob added; “Someone brings a book, and someone takes a book,” he said.

Book exchanges are common in Germany and some other European countries, but it was from the USA that Rob got the idea.

The first Little Free Library was started in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, where Todd Bol built a small model of a schoolroom, stocked it with books, and put it in his front yard. Today, there are thousands of Little Free Libraries in the United States.

Upper Glanmire is somewhat of an outpost for the movement, brought home by Rob and his wife.

“We travel a lot, and somewhere along the way we spotted the book exchange, and the idea came back with us,” Rob said.

“I did some more research into it, then I sourced a cabinet, painted it up, insulated it, and then we started to look for people to donate books.”

Rob put out the call on social media and very quickly he was inundated with books from local donors looking to help.

“I remember coming home one evening to three black sacks of books that people had dropped off,” he added.

The Little Free Library has been running now for almost two years, and has become very popular in the community.

Located just outside the local primary school, Scoil Naomh Micheál, the library is in near constant use.

Acknowledging the suitability of the site, Rob mentioned that there was a captive and interested audience who were only too happy to use the service: “You have a built-in audience there for the children who want to use it, and the parents as well.”

Continuing, he noted that the Little Free Library is also covered by school cameras.

“Thankfully we have never had any vandalism or anything like that. These things can be abused, you hear about that, but it hasn’t happened in our case, which is great,” he said.

The Library is divided into two sections, one for the adults and one for the children, and both sections are usually replenished by themselves.

Every so often, when Rob spots that the selection of books is on the low side, he will put out a call on social media, and very quickly, a fresh assortment of novels, biographies and all other kinds of books fill the shelves.

Asked if he knew of any other Little Free Libraries in Cork, Rob pointed out that he knew of a version in Donegal, and he believed there were a few in Dublin.

However he wasn’t aware of any others in Cork. It seems that, for now at least, Upper Glanmire might have the only one.