Street Libraries connecting agents with their communities

When LJ Hooker Avalon Beach real estate agent Danielle Forde decided to help her local café with a special project, she discovered a love of books that would connect her to her community in the most unique way.

The project was to install a communal bookshelf for the café’s customers to read and enjoy – but not just at the café.

Instead, they could take books home. They could also bring new books to the shelf, resulting in what would effectively become a mini library within the café.

It was through helping with this project that Ms Forde discovered Street Libraries – mini homes for books, installed in residential front yards or shop fronts, allowing passers-by to take and/or supply books as they wish.

Seeing the unique community connection the Street Libraries generated, Ms Forde decided to start gifting book boxes to her clients.

As well as helping her forge meaningful connections with her community, Ms Forde said providing Street Libraries to new homeowners was is a more organic way of raising her profile as a real estate agent. 

“People have preconceived notions of a real estate agent,” Ms Forde said.

“Providing Street Libraries helps me show I really do care about the local community and gives people a chance to get to know me.”

And she’s not the only one. Street Library Australia general manager Cecile Schuldiener said real estate agents using Street Libraries to build connections was becoming an industry trend.

“There has been a definite uptake of Street Libraries among many real estate agents,” Ms Schuldiener said.

“One real estate gifted a Street Library to new homeowners to welcome them to the neighbourhood, giving the newcomers an opportunity to meet new people in their ‘hood. 

“Another real estate agency put out a Street Library out the front of their office to connect with people, and it is a great way to start a conversation.”

Ms Schuldiener said starting a Street Library broke down barriers of communication and preconceived ideas of what people are like.

“By starting a Street Library it quietens all of the noise of real estate agents being in it for the money, and allows other conversations to take place.”

Street Libraries are run using a trust system; there is no checking in or out, people simply reach in and take what interests them.

Conversely, if you’re finished with a book, you can pop it into any Street Library you happen to come across.

“They are a symbol of trust and hope – a tiny vestibule of literary happiness,” Ms Schuldiener said.

Street Library Australia was the brainchild of founder, Nic Lowe, after he discovered the idea of free street libraries during his travels to Oregon, America.

“Street Library’s motto is ‘take a book, share a book, give a book’,” Ms Schuldiener said.

“Rather than throwing a book away or recycling them, you can share them with your neighbours or community.”

Setting up a Street Library was a simple project, Ms Schuldiener said, with three types available, as well as a DIY kit.

“A Street Library is the perfect gift for any booklover. It is the gift that will keep on giving and benefit the whole community,” Ms Schuldiener said.

“It is a great way to get to know your neighbours and it encourages people to contribute to the Street Library and help improve book access to people in the community.”

As well as real estate agencies, Ms Schuldiener said Street Libraries had been embraced by all walks of life, including schools, preschools and community organisations.

“Councils have also been excited about installing Street Libraries for their community,” she said.

“They see it has a perfect way to bring communities together. Parramatta Council (NSW) has rolled out over 50 Street Libraries, Townsville Council have planted 100, and many other councils around Australia have installed Street Libraries to start a conversation with someone new.” 

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a freelance journalist for Elite Agent.