16 May 2022

You are welcome to talk in Canberra's street libraries

| Aiden Rothnie
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Two women at street library.

Roz Martiniello (left) and Shah Petreskion, founders of Canberra Lil Street Libraries Facebook page. Photo: Supplied.

You might have noticed these little treasure troves of books around Canberra, just sitting on the street, waiting for the right person to show up and find their newest book.

These are Canberra’s Lil Street Libraries, where anyone can take or leave a book for free.

A budding community has built up around Canberra’s street libraries, to the point where there’s even a Facebook page dedicated to creating a list of all the street libraries in the ACT and where they’re located.

Shah Petreski and Roz Martiniello, founders of the Canberra Lil Street Libraries Facebook page, said when the page was started in 2018 there were only about 38 street libraries in Canberra.

Street library

Watson’s very own street library. Photo: Lil Street Libraries Facebook.

“We had heard about street libraries in the US and were curious to know if there were any around Canberra,” Shah said.

“Through the group, we’ve been trying to spread the idea of little street libraries and grow the community, and it’s gone great.”

There are now nearly 200 street libraries across Canberra and Queanbeyan, most run by one or two passionate individuals per street.

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Shah and Roz have been long-time friends and said they quickly became street library enthusiasts.

“It started out about the books, but now it’s become its own community,” Shah said.

Shah helps to run the Stromlo Garden Street Library alongside one of her neighbours. They often run events for the community at the street library, most recently a hugely successful Easter egg hunt.

“It’s really popular with kids,” she said. “We even made our own street libraries passport for people to print off and give to kids so they can pop down where they’ve visited or what books they took or dropped off.”

Roz said street libraries were bringing people together.

“There’s a lot of them now,” she said. “Some are made by schools, and some have a superhero theme. We have a Superman-themed street library and a Hulk-themed street library now.

“I took my little girl to one and we ended up being there at the same time as someone else and their daughter and the two kids ended up getting on great. I had a 30-minute conversation with a person I had just met.”

Roz and Shah said their goal was to get a street library in every suburb in Canberra and Queanbeyan.

If you’d like to make your own street library but you’re not sure about how to go about it, you can buy a library kit online at Street Libraries Australia and have it sent to you or browse the Lil Street Libraries Facebook page for tips, inspiration or materials.

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Tom Worthington9:17 am 16 May 22

Canberra’s street libraries got me through the many months when the public libraries were closed due to the pandemic. I now go first to the street library and only if there is nothing suitable there do I go to the public library. Of course the part of the public library which came to the fore were the online digital books.

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