28 May 2018

Two Canberra women uncover a treasure trove of 46 little libraries down city laneways and suburban streets

| Glynis Quinlan
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Roz Martiniello (left) and Shah Bahpyu at the Lil Street Library which Shah created at 30 Garanya Street, Waramanga. Photos supplied by Lil Street Libraries.

Two Canberra women with a love for books are uncovering a secret treasure trove in Canberra by bringing together a network of ‘Lil Street Libraries’ hidden down our city’s laneways and suburban streets.

Shah Bahpyu and Roz Martiniello have made it their mission to spread the word about the many miniature libraries popping up all over Canberra and Queanbeyan and to interest more people in starting up their very own Lil Street Library (LSL) outside their homes.

They have started a Facebook page listing the locations of the 46 LSL in Canberra/Queanbeyan and started visiting each one of them – documenting their journey through photos and video tours as they go.

They are also keen to encourage others to visit the city’s little libraries and hope to put together LSL passports within the next three months so that people can record their journey as they go.

Street libraries are a fairly recent phenomenon in Australia with the first Canberra LSL believed to have been started in Curtin around four years ago.

The inviting LSL at 3 Cockburn Street, Curtin.

In a nutshell, a street library is a home for books in a person’s yard which is accessible from the street and is stocked with books for neighbours or walkers-by to share or add to, without the need to be checked in or out.

Shah said she first found out about street libraries last year while Roz had heard of them earlier.

They decide to check them out together and “we just absolutely fell in love with them”.

The attractive LSL at Link Park, Wright

Shah started up her own LSL in Garanya Street, Waramanga about six weeks ago after ordering a hot pink locker for her books and surrounding it with a few chairs.

The bottom of the locker is stocked with children’s books and the top has books for adults. There is also a guestbook and Shah said that many people have left messages.

She has only had to stock it with books once using books her family had already read and most have now been replaced by those who have taken a book but left one of their own.

“It’s popular with the kids and there’s always new books in there all the time,” Shah said.

The colourful LSL at 6 Thorpe Street, Florey has made a strong fan.

Shah said the libraries come in all shapes and sizes, with many being handmade.

Roz and Shah are currently in talks with the ACT Woodcraft Guild to see if they can collaborate to get a Street Library building workshop happening.

The vibrant blue LSL at 18 Greeves Street, Wanniassa.

Shah is hoping more and more LSLs will start popping up as more people find out about them. She said that starting a LSL can be great for older people who are sometimes isolated as it encourages socialising.

“It’s a fantastic way to meet your neighbours and to meet your community.”

Shah also recommended taking children on a “quest” or “treasure hunt” to visit Canberra’s LSLs as it can be a fun adventure that helps to get them more interested in books.

Among the books likely to turn up at the LSLs in the future is the children’s book Shah herself wrote, entitled ‘The little cloud who was afraid of the dark’ which was just published in April.

Shah Bahpyu with her first children’s book ‘The little cloud who was afraid of the dark’.

If anyone has a LSL which is missing from the Facebook list please contact Shah and Roz in a private message via the Facebook page which is found at: www.facebook.com/Lilstreetlibraries

They would also like to hear from anyone who is interested in starting a LSL so they can follow your journey.

The Facebook page contains videos of some of the libraries Shah and Roz have visited to date, as well as a variety of tips and information points.

Below is a video filmed by Roz and Shah providing 10 tips for starting a Lil Street Library.

Have you set up a Lil Street Library or have you ever visited one? Do you think they are an effective way of encouraging reading and community spirit? Let us know in the comments below.

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HiddenDragon5:55 pm 03 Jun 18

Book-fancying, library-loving Rioters might enjoy this, from across the Tasman –


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