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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Birch

A Grassroots Concept in Libraries

With the motto “Take a Book, Give a Book, Share a Book” Street Libraries are gaining popularity in the Moreton Bay suburbs.

How would you encourage literacy and build a stronger community at little or no cost? By doing what Nic Lowe did.

Back in 2015, he built Australia’s first Street Library outside his house in Newtown, Sydney - modelling a nationwide system along similar lines to the free library concept he’d witnessed in America – in Portland, Oregon.

Street Library

The idea of “Take a Book, Give a Book, Share a Book” took off, mushrooming into a not-for-profit charity that now boasts over 4000 libraries across the country and many more informal ones.

In the Moreton Bay region alone, there are over fifty registered and active Street Libraries.

Nic Lowe believes reading long-form literature and books helps to communicate and express complex and nuanced ideas that enrich people’s lives in ways a short social media post cannot do.

And it seems the academic world agrees. Studies conducted by Spain’s University of Valencia found that reading print in books improves comprehension far more than reading digital text.

A Street Library may contain up to 40 donated books – adult, young adult, children’s fiction, non-fiction and books across a variety of genres.

The books are housed in a weather-proof box that might be free-standing, perched atop a boundary fence, or hung off walls on private property, away from foot traffic, making permission from council unnecessary.

Books come and go. People take what interests them and when they are done, they can return them to the Street Library network or pass them on to friends. 

Not only are they encouraging reading and the sharing of knowledge, but they are also saving books from disposal in landfills.

Street Libraries are free and accessible to all, irrespective of age, literacy level, or financial circumstances. They engender trust in the community and can play a key role for marginalised groups that aren’t typically able to access conventional libraries without the usual forms of ID.

What’s more, Street Libraries are self-sustaining. If anyone has a book or two that they think others would enjoy, they can just pop it into any Street Library they happen to be walking past.

Deception Bay resident Di Pollard loves books and describes how she felt “the need to share that love with others”. Di opened a Street Library using a converted bar fridge on her back fence at the start of the pandemic in April 2020.

“I named it The Snicket – a name taken from my North of England roots as the library faced onto a laneway or ‘snicket’,” Di says. “People loved that they could simply take a book, keep it, gift it or return it with no expectations, monitoring or rules. It's a great community builder at grassroots level and a social lubricant. It gets people talking and sharing.”

The Snicket Street Library ran successfully for three years with many generous donations from the community. However, after two incidents of vandalism, Di transformed it into a pop-up shop at Deception Bay’s Zesty Lemon Café.

She closed the library down in December 2023 and donated the books to Lifeline’s Bookfest, but she doesn’t rule out starting another Street Library again, saying, “A lot of books travel great distances with visitors and tourists picking up books in one town and leaving them in another.

The Street Library movement is a quiet achiever - encouraging reading, sharing, improving literacy and keeping books circulating, not stagnating on someone's bookshelf.”

The Book Hut Street Library in Trafalgar Drive, Morayfield, holds fiction novels from popular authors such as Judy Nunn, Maeve Binchy and Nora Roberts, while on Stirling Court, Burpengary East, the Bay Breeze Estate Street Library offers seeds or garden produce to swap along with a book or two.

One Street Library in Sandgate glows in the dark, while others provide puzzles, games, recipe swaps and even a letter-writing service to the community.

Each library is distinctive and reflective of the personality of the individual street librarian.

On Koda Street in Burpengary, an old wooden dresser with leadlight doors was being given away and was then repurposed as a Street Library, while at Petrie on Inverpine Court, they painted and decorated a disused chicken coop.

Street Libraries have been made from all sorts of structures, including converted former telephone boxes, disused outhouses, old cupboards and freezers, like Morayfield’s Street Library in Koala Drive.

Are you inspired to join the street librarians?

If so, purchase a completed Street Library or a ready-made kit from Street Libraries online, or get imaginative and build/re-fashion one yourself, like the Belvedere Street Library in Bellmere or the Comfrey Cottage Library in Duncan Street, Caboolture who constructed their library entirely from scratch using recycled materials.

Find out more locations and information here:


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