Ladysmith’s first Community Bookshelf was opened up at Aggie Hall Tuesday

An open and shut case for literacy

Imagine taking your book shelf out into the street…

Imagine taking your book shelf out into the street, putting doors and a roof on it to protect your cherished collection from the elements, adding design elements that make it fit in with wherever you happen to be leaving it, then putting up sign saying “Take a book; Leave a book; FREE”

That pretty well sums up the community bookcase project, which has been a big hit in Nanaimo, and which is opening up four ‘mini libraries’ in Ladysmith, contained in cheerful hutches designed to promote literacy and the joys of reading.

Money for the project was provided by Decoda Literacy Solutions, explained Michele Hillier, executive director of Literacy Central Vancouver Island. She said Nanaimo will have about 40 community bookcases at locations throughout the city by this spring.

“I’m a great supporter,” she said. “I think it promotes community.” In her own neighbourhood there are three community bookcases and she said people are drawn to them to browse and add to the collections. “It’s a real sense of sharing.”

Literacy Central Vancouver Island has a used book store, Hillier said, and is ‘quite happy’ to help restock the shelves of Ladysmith’s community bookcases for free.

You can find out more about Literacy Central, which is celebrating its 25th year, at

The Aggie Hall installation has been a great experience for Ladysmith Secondary grad Rob Matson, who along with fellow grads Tanner Browne and Jordan Coyne designed and built the Aggie bookcase.

“Pretty amazing, to be honest,” he summed up the experience of seeing the mini-library installed. “It’s cool.”

For Matson, the Aggie Hall location was a natural. “I picked Aggie Hall because my dad used to play baseball here all the time when he was in his 20s,” he said.

LSS woodworking teacher Brad Brawner jumped in to remind Matson that he went back farther than his dad’s baseball years, researching the location. Matson went to the museum and archives to gain a sense of the site’s history and significance.

“It was a project based learning type of assignment,” Brawner said. “The kids got to apply their skills, and the community benefits.”

Two more of the cases built in his class are ready to go: a mini-library shaped like the bow of a canoe will be placed at Transfer Beach; and one shaped like a phone booth will be installed at Frank Jameson Community Centre.

The fourth installation, to be at the golf course, is still in the works.

“They’re all different designs that are apropos of their context,” said Ladysmith’s Community Coordinator Anita McLeod.


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