On the corner of Luneville Road and Marne Avenue in Lorraine you would find a small, bright red and yellow structure.
While it resembles a larger-than-usual mailbox from afar, as you get closer you are then delightfully surprised to find the structure was erected to function as a public miniature book exchange station.
This creative idea came to Lorraine resident, Erna Milbourn, while visiting her children last year in Paris, France.
“I saw this library box outside of Paris in a picnic area, next to a river, and I immediately wondered if this would work in South Africa. I eventually decided to try it, otherwise I never would’ve known,” said Milbourn.
She explained that her husband, Errol, is very handy and built the structure for her.
“It probably took about a week to build. Since mine went up on January 11 this year, a number of people have contacted us asking if he would build a box for them too. He is busy working out the cost to build it, and then we will let them know,” she added.
According to Milbourn, the Little Library works on an honesty basis. You can take any book or books that you want, and if you have any books you want to donate, you can put them in the box. Anyone can participate and any type of book is welcome.
“I have several different kinds of books. There are English and Afrikaans books – fiction and non-fiction, religious books, Bibles in both English and Afrikaans, as well as children’s books, motivational books and books on animals and nature.
“The books in the box vary daily, depending on what is taken and what is donated. I repack, refill and tidy the box a couple of times a day,” she explained.
Milbourn said that from the feedback she is getting, the Little Library means a lot to everyone and many people are excited about it.
“I’m hoping to get more people and, especially young people and children, to read again. Only a very small number of people have been negative and said that it will be stolen or vandalised, so I’m hoping that this will not happen. I’m also hoping to prove the negative people out there wrong.”
She plans on running this initiative for as long as it works, and hopes that it will be for a long time.
“So many people have thanked me and I love the pleasure that people are getting from this little project of mine.”
Ward 8 councillor, Gustav Rautenbach, said that the book exchange station is an absolutely fantastic initiative that will mean and add a lot of value to the community.
“I received a phone call from someone in Graaff-Reinet who said that he too wants to start his own free library and asked some guidance on how to do this. I’m encouraging residents in this ward and other areas to support the initiative, and to try to start something like this themselves. To have more of these free libraries would be wonderful and hopefully they will get people to read more, especially the youth,” he said.
Rautenbach also made an appeal to the community to keep their eyes peeled, and ears to the ground, to ensure that the library box is kept safe and free from vandalism.
“Since it’s on the sidewalk, everyone has access and the possibility of vandalism exists. Our community should make this their own and take care of it because it is a positive and important addition to the ward.”