›› Lee Herrin

Neighbourhood book exchanges have been around Fernwood for a while. There’s one on Chambers, one on Camosun, and probably a few others I haven’t seen yet. However, what is undoubtedly the newest was installed in late April outside the Fernwood Community Centre. It was a gift to all Fernwoodians from Orca Book Publishers (an independent publisher based on Balmoral Rd.) to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

“Orca has always been committed to the idea of ‘reaching more readers’ and these little libraries are a really tangible way to connect books with readers, right in our community. Literacy is at the heart of a successful education and a vibrant community and we hope in some small way that these libraries reach another generation of readers,” said Andrew Wooldridge of Orca Book Publishers.

The idea is simple: when you go by the little library, take a browse and see if you find something that interests you. If you do, take it—it’s free! Then either read the book and put it back for someone else (just like the regular library), or bring a book of your own that you don’t plan to read again, and leave it for someone else to discover.

It’s only been a few weeks, but so far some high minded literature has already changed hands through the library: Plato’s Republic, Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and Hamlet (note to high school students—“I left my textbook in the Little Library” will probably not get you off the hook in class!). Orca has committed to keeping the library stocked with some of its own backlist too, so there should always be a good selection. And if you see it’s running low, don’t wait for someone else—bring a handful of books down yourself. We’ve all got a few lying around.

Orca publishes everything from board books for the youngest “readers” to adult fiction, but they have very successfully occupied the niche of providing easy-to-read, interesting and exciting stories for school-age children and young adults. How can you tell they are successful? They’ve been in business 30 years and are thriving in an industry where most media stories are about business closures rather than ­milestone birthdays.

So there you have it: one more story about a great neighbourhood business ­giving back to the community. Thanks Orca!