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Local lending libraries a hit for neighbourhood book worms

'People will come by and say, ‘this is really great, we use it all the time,' says owner of one of Orillia's roadside lending libraries

During the COVID-19 pandemic, readers have made small local roadside lending libraries a hit.

Scattered across town, locals can find small wooden boxes full of books that are made available for people to borrow - for free. One can be found at 2 Marlisa Dr., just across from Grenville Park.

Vanda McLean and her husband, Gord, decided to build their lending library nearly two years ago.

“My niece and her kids would use one in Barrie that was much bigger, and the kids loved it, so I felt that it would be something neat to do,” McLean said.

“I loved the concept of it, so I actually asked our oldest son if he would build one for me.”

One of the key factors in McLean’s desire to start a lending library revolved around her passion for sharing her love of reading.  

“I think it’s important to get people reading, and through this pandemic, it’s been awesome,” she said.

"I stocked it to start with, and every now and again I’ll stock it with some extra kids’ books, but it’s always full and it’s always rotated on what’s in there. It’s really quite amazing.”

The way the lending library on Marlisa Drive works is people bring a book to give, and then they take one with them to read. If someone doesn’t have anything to give they are still encouraged to take a book.

“I haven’t had to stock it in ages, and I can’t keep enough kids' books in there ... they go quickly,” McLean said.

McLean says the popularity of the lending library has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“I can tell how much it’s used by the rotation of books; I’ll go look at it every two or three days and I’ll see new stuff that wasn’t there before,” she said.

The importance of the library has never been more important than it is right now, McLean says.

“To me, it became more important with COVID because the library shut down, and people are stuck at home,” she said.

“People will come by and say, ‘this is really great, we use it all the time.’"

Cindy Cochrane and her husband, Mike Francoeur, built their own lending library in October outside their home at 2 Sandra Dr.

The lending library started with 160 books in total, which are all from Cochrane’s personal collection.

“I’m a real book worm, I have hundreds of books, and I’ve always believed that books are very precious. So, my husband built it, I painted it, and the books I read I put in there,” she explained.

Sharing her love for reading is something Cochrane likes to do to try to make others happy.

“I like making people happy. I’ve been a volunteer all my life, and I like to see the smiles on people’s faces. I can only imagine how they are going to feel when they open that book up,” Cochrane said.

With Cochrane’s lending library, she encourages people to just take books; leaving one of their own behind isn’t necessary.

“I put up a sign that says take some, I didn’t say share because I have hundreds,” she laughed.

But that hasn’t stopped people from leaving and donating books anyway.

“People have brought bags and bags of books and left them on my doorstep, so I clean them up, I let them sit for five days, and I put them out in the library,” she said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cochrane believes her lending library has helped various people in her neighborhood.

“I think it helps. It’s something that is there and free to anyone who needs or wants one,” she said.

“We have a neighbour who just lost his wife, and he came by one day and said, ‘do you have any books?’ So we said sure, and I gave him a bag of 15.”

Cochrane hopes reading the books in her lending library will help others as much as it’s helped her.

“For me, reading helps rest my brain. When you read a book, it helps you level out, I think a lot of people need that,” she said.

The popularity of Cochrane’s lending library varies depending on the weather, she says.

“Usually people come running when I put the books out," she said. 

“In the wintertime, it’s a little different with the snow and ice. I waited almost two weeks before somebody took some. I just leave it and stay patient.”

Another lending library in Orillia can be found at 255 Mississaga St. W.


Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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