Waterloo Town Square is an active place these days, with markets, performances and exhibitions. But now there is something interesting you can find there every day: BookCycle.
Tucked up against the back of the square facing the public concourse, you can find a large, brown metal trunk. Open up the heavy lid and a treasure trove of books await you. They are for you, and for me. You take a book; you leave a book; you talk about where you got the book and you’ve just become a member a citizen library.
Launched in July, Gena Meldazy and her co-curators, Ashley Kruger and Carmen Peters, worked together to create a citizen library that everyone can use, and be inspired by its intent. “Our main goal was to put BookCycle in a public space so anyone could access it at any time,” says Gena. “City bylaws didn’t offer any wiggle room for it to pop up organically so we knew working with the city was the best way to make this happen.” The public square is a perfect fit.
Gena was in Toronto during the Occupy protests in 2011, and when the city evicted the main protest site, protesters demanded the free library they had created be taken to a safe place or they would remain chained to it. This made a strong impression on Gena, and got her thinking about the importance of literacy in activism and community building. The idea of a citizen library began to percolate in her mind.
Over the next couple of years, the curators researched other examples of citizen libraries around the world and saw them as tools for activism and civic engagement. They wanted to replicate that in Waterloo. “We wanted people to think about why book access is important in their city and neighbourhood, and see if it would provoke a larger discussion about books, information, literacy and community building,” says Gena.
The trunk contents change regularly and at my last check, included John Grisham, Tolkien and some Calvin and Hobbes. And now Victory Meat by Lynn Coady, which I recently added.
How can you get involved with BookCycle? Visit the trunk in Uptown, take a book, add a book or talk about your BookCycle experiences on their blog or bring it up in conversations with your friends and neighbours. And if you are feeling inspired to start a BookCycle in your neighbourhood, email the curators. They’d be delighted to help you build a book-lovin’ community where you live.
Have you seen BookCycle in person? What did you find inside?
P.S. Gena’s favourite topics of conversation: music and technology.
P.P.S. Go read a book.