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Annieville’s ‘Free Little Library’ back serving the North Delta community

The Harker family rebuilt the book exchange after it was destroyed by fire in April.
(Left to right) Kaden (10), Quinn (4) and Riley (8) Harker helped rebuild Annieville’s Free Little Library after the original burned down on April 28. (James Smith photo)

Annieville’s “Free Little Library” has risen from the ashes after being destroyed by fire last month.

Delta Fire and Delta Police were alerted that the small wood structure located outside Annieville Elementary School was ablaze at around 5:30 a.m. on April 28. Fire crews extinguished the flames, but not in time to save any of the books and DVDs inside.

News of the fire spread quickly as neighbours took to social media to mourn the loss of this community resource.

The news hit the Harker family particularly hard, as they were the ones who built it.

“When I found out I was upset and I was pretty mad because I was just wondering why someone would do that,” said 10-year-old Kaden Harker.

“I actually found out [that it had burned down] by a text from a local mom,” said Kaden’s mom, Shayla. “Then we got tagged on Facebook a bunch of times. We didn’t really tell people that we built the first one, it was kind of like we just did it and it was quiet.”

The family built the original Little Library after coming across something similar while vacationing last spring at Cain Lake, just outside Bellingham, Wash. By the time school had let out for the summer, the Little Library was open for business.

“When we first thought of it, we had so many books and we read them almost for a thousand years, and that’s when we thought of leave a book/take a book, so we can get new books and read new books,” said eight-year-old Riley. “It’s like a library that you switch books all the time.”

The Little Library quickly became a local fixture, serving neighbourhood families as well as the Annieville Elementary community, and the impact of its loss was immediate.

“There was so much response on Facebook about how many people used it and how sad it was, and people making assumptions on who did it,” Shayla said. “The response was at first sad, and then, ‘let’s replace it and come together as a community.’”

It took the Harkers a few weeks to get the all the pieces together to replace the Little Library, but thanks to donations from Surrey New &Used Building Materials (the door/window), Southridge Hardware (paint), Sunbury Cedar (shingles) and Harker Renovations and Construction (Shayla’s husband Jeff’s company, who supplied plywood, nails, etc.), it once again stands at the ready to serve the community.

“All of the books got burned, so so far we have donated some from our personal collection, and then pretty much all of those adult books, people are just slowly filling it up,” Shayla said. “Then, once it’s full, the idea is you take a book and you leave a book. It’s not meant as a donation box, it’s meant as an exchange…otherwise, it just get’s overcrowded.”

And as residents began to use the Little Library once more, one anonymous user left a note to let the Harkers know just what their contribution has meant to the community:

“A very big thank you to whom ever [sic] cleaned up and returned the ‘Free Little Library!’ A very special friend of mine was turned back on to reading because of this book shelter. She enjoys leaving books as much as taking them. Thank you!”

(Left to right) Quinn (4), Riley (8) and Kaden (10) Harker help restock Annieville’s rebuilt Free Little Library after the original burned down on April 28. (James Smith photo)