Take a book, leave a book: Little Free Library comes to Hasselt

Summary

With the Little Free Library in Hasselt’s city centre, three friends and avid readers hope to offer a community alternative to both municipal libraries and traditional bookstores

Positive feedback

Bookworms in Hasselt now have a new place to get their reading fix. The Little Free Library is a diminutive red cabinet full of books that any passer-by is free to take home and never bring back. The only caveat? If you take out a book, you have to leave another in its place.

The opening of the Little Free Library in the city’s centre couldn’t come at a better time. In July, the city closed seven neighbourhood library branches, leaving only the main branch in Kuringen open.

The Little Free Library offers a grassroots alternative to both municipal libraries and traditional bookstores. “We hope that other people will get involved and make their own cabinets. It would be nice to have more than one,” says Tine Poesen, one of three women behind the swap initiative.

The city of Hasselt is currently even eyeing the Little Free Library as a model for other book-swapping cabinets to be stocked with surplus inventory from the former library branches.

The perfect location

Poesen, Lieselotte De Snijder and Jessa Van Doorslaer, three friends who all share a love of reading, first got the idea for the tiny library after hearing about similar initiatives abroad. Poesen read about them in a Dutch magazine, while De Snijder saw one when she visited Vienna.

We hope that other people will make more cabinets

- Tine Poesen

The three women subsequently got to work. They purchased a small wooden nightstand from a local thrift store and fixed it up. The refurbished cupboard was given a shiny new coat of red paint, and the women eventually found the perfect location for it – a quiet courtyard in Hasselt’s city centre.

Hanging the cupboard low to the ground so that children would also be able to use it, they stocked it with used books they retrieved from their own bookshelves and those of their friends.

The three say the feedback since the official unveiling at the end of August has been positive and that the original books have already made space for multiple swaps. They have also created a Facebook page where they post photos showing the current contents of the cabinet. All books are welcome: novels, non-fiction, comics – even foreign-language books.

In the following weeks, the organisers also heard about several other swapping libraries across the country. “But because they’re not registered, it’s difficult to know where they are,” says De Snijder. That’s why they joined LittleFreeLibrary.org, a website that lists over 15,000 book exchange sites worldwide.

This US-based non-profit organisation provides advice and support to anyone who would like to start their own Little Free Library. Hasselt’s library is one of three currently listed as situated in Flanders. The others are in Bruges and Dessel in eastern Antwerp province.

photo by Maarten Deckers