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A social media success story. And books!

The other day I saw a perfectly good bookcase in the garbage. What a waste. It got me thinking. It may have outlived its usefulness for the owner, but it could have easily had a second life with someone else.

In September 2009 I saw a tweet that linked to a blog post about a community bookcase that someone had set up halfway around the world. I can’t even remember the details of the post, but, essentially, someone found a bookcase, put it in a public place, and stocked it with books. It operates, quite successfully, under a “take one, leave one” principle.

I adored this idea. In fact, I liked it so much that I immediately emailed the executive director of my neighbourhood community centre to see if we could do something similar.

The benefits of a free community book exchange are too numerous to count. Not only does it keep unwanted books from out of the landfill, save money and resources, but it promotes literacy for all kinds of people at all kinds of reading levels. And no library fines!

The response came quickly enough: “Good idea, let’s rock,” he wrote. “I will get the bookcase, you get the books. I will leave it to you to do the signage and to pay attention to its stock and state.”

Within a couple of days there was a new bookcase waiting to be filled. Signage was created by a creative member of the community centre. All we needed was some decent reading material. I got the ball rolling with a handful of books.

Our bookcase looked a little sad at first:


It wasn’t until we started to get the word out using different social media channels (my blog, Facebook and Twitter) that the books really started to pour in. It was filled to the brim in no time flat.

Every once in awhile I tweet out another request, or just to remind people that it’s there. We’ve had some amazing donations from local families.

Every once in awhile my daughters and I walk up there to add books to the shelf and make sure it’s tidy. The shelves are almost always are in good order. Other people in our community are taking care of it too.

It’s been an amazing experience. It was fairly cheap to set up and has many long term benefits, not just for the community, but for my family too. My daughters are immensely proud of the bookcase they helped set up.

If you have a bookcase and a stack of books you don’t know what to do with, perhaps this will inspire you to do the same in your own community. I’d love to hear about it if you.

And if you’re in Ottawa and you have some gently-used books to donate, consider dropping them off upstairs at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre. Thank you!

Mother of two imps and wife of one. Writer, photographer, pro blogger, adventure-seeker, Ottawaholic, social media evangelist and lover of STUFF. Also known as @missfish on Twitter.

4 Responses to “A social media success story. And books!”


Great idea! I’ve got a bunch of books that I don’t know what to do with…and a shelf that we won’t need after we move. You may just have some new used books in your shelves soon!



we have two bookcases like this at my office. You often see people who are getting ready to go on business travel standing in front of it looking for reading to occupy them during the long lay overs. It really is a great idea.


Urban Girl

This is a great idea!


Brenda A

Cool! I did not realize (until now!) that this was “your” shelf! We love Dovercourt and have frequently enjoy the books on this shelf! Love the give one take one thing. Sharing is the best! Thank you for this!


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