British Columbia

Small grassroots lending library burned to the ground in inner-city Prince George

The sight of charred books scattered on a sidewalk below a burnt out “lending library” has shocked residents of Prince George, B.C.

‘To see something like that done is just crushing,’ says dog walker who found the burnt books

Hanna Posselt came across the vandalized library, which had been filled with books mostly for children and teens, when she was walking her dog. (Hanna Posselt)

The sight of charred books scattered on a sidewalk below a burnt out community lending library has shocked residents of Prince George, B.C., and prompted a discussion about the value of books to the inner-city neighbourhood.

Hanna Posselt spotted the damaged book exchange box while walking with her dog earlier this week.

"To see something like that done is just crushing," she said. "They're just a really neat idea and I am all about encouraging kids to read."

Posselt's lived in the neighbourhood since 2005 and is concerned about the impression it gives about the area.

"It's a neighbourhood I take pride in," she said. "I'm always defending that neighbourhood and area of town."

Prince George RCMP say the incident is "clearly arson," but there is little evidence to investigate, with no witnesses and no suspects.

Books go 'like hot cakes'

The pop-up library was located near Ron Brent Elementary School, which had set it up about a month ago to encourage reading in the neighbourhood after a similar project proved successful among students on the school grounds.

"The books go like hot cakes — as soon as we put them out, the kids are scooping them up and taking them home," said Dan Watt, the school principal.

"By installing the little free library outside, we were hoping to extend that to the community."

Watt said while he's hesitant to put another lending library up, unless there's a way to vandalize-proof it, the response from the community with people reaching out to offer support is encouraging. 

"It's definitely given me hope and inspired me to maybe want to do something again in the fall," said Watt.

For Ignacio Albarracin, a public service manager at the Prince George Public Library, neighbourhood book exchanges like this one are an important way to encourage reading. 

"They convey to a community how much we value learning and sharing ideas," he said.

"Hopefully, [the perpetrator] will see with the public's response that people value books and the idea of them getting burned is a painful thing," Albarracin said.

With files from Daybreak North and Andrew Kurjata.

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