The warming story of an indoor ‘street’ library

Bookworms survey the shelves of the COTA “street” library in Hughes.

A MINI “street” library has been set up at the Hughes Community Centre by the staff at the ACT Council on the Ageing, though this one’s located in the warmth of the foyer, with plans to expand outside to meet demand.

The library was started in November by Jenny Mobbs, CEO of COTA ACT, and is also run by community education manager Ingrid Pepper and communications manager Catherine Adcock.

“It was always a dream of mine to do a library. I love books and I think a lot of other people do, too,” says Jenny.

“We get hundreds of people coming into the community centre every day and I’d see people on the seats outside reading, so I put the two together. I got in touch with the Majura Men’s Shed, who said they could make some shelves for me, they brought them over and it’s gone from there.

“It can also be a nice warm place to come as opposed to being out in the shops, so it’ll be interesting to see if it will get more popular over winter.

“I love it, we’re all bookworms here, it’s fun and a lovely way to connect with other people.”

From left: Ingrid Pepper, Jenny Mobbs and Catherine Adcock… “We’re all bookworms here, it’s fun and a lovely way to connect with other people.” Photo by Kathryn Vukovljak

The library works on the basis that anyone can borrow a book, keep it if they like it, ideally replace it with another one or return the same one.

“I’ve had people say: ‘What do I owe you?’, and they can’t believe it’s free. They’re shocked that there’s no accountability,” says Jenny.

“It’s really worked and it seems like everyone has found something they want to read. COTA staff have been enthusiastic and we use it ourselves and contribute to it, and give each other recommendations, so it’s been good!”

Ingrid says the library has been flowing really well, although they have had some days when the books have almost gone.

“But then someone will come in with six boxes,” she says.

“We’ve put a few notices out for donations and it sort of overwhelmed us the amount we’ve been getting.

“There’s an interesting pattern because we might get a box of all the same author, or a series. We’ll accept anything, fiction, cookery, magazines, non-fiction, gardening, and it all goes. Our only criteria is that the books are in good condition.

“We see people chatting and connecting over the books, it’s a bit like an informal book club happening, and the other nice thing is that we’re having a slow trickle of children’s books come in, too, which we think people must take for their grandchildren.

“I go out there to sort the books and I’ll get people asking: ‘Do you have any by this author’, so I try to keep track.”

Jenny says she would love to extend the library outside on to the street, so people would be able to access the books out of hours.

“We have such a nice area out the front under the trees, we’re calling it the Paris end of Hughes,” she says.

“I’m first in every morning and there are sometimes people waiting outside saying they want to get to the books!

“I think having access outside will keep people engaged with the centre.

“We also have people who use community transport who often have to wait to be picked up – so instead of sitting there staring at the wall they can read.”

COTA ACT Community Library, Hughes Community Centre, Wisdom Street, Hughes

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