British Columbia

Prince George librarian saddened by city's decision to remove free library box during pandemic

City staff have removed a free library at Rainbow Park at a time when the public library system is closed due to COVID-19.

'Right now, we need books,' Tina Cousins says, as public libraries remain closed due to COVID-19

School librarian Tina Cousins decorated the Rainbow Park Little Free Library according to the season and has now spruced up the barren pole that once supported the wooden box of books. (Tina Cousins/Facebook)

Prince George, B.C., resident Tina Cousins was driving by Rainbow Park last week and decided to look in on the free library box she takes care of there.

The public school librarian planned to clean up any litter around it and maybe get some ideas about how to decorate it this year for spring — but when she arrived at the usual spot, the wooden birdhouse-like structure was gone, replaced by a large orange traffic cone courtesy of the city.

Cousins told CBC's Daybreak North on Tuesday that she called city hall the next day to find out what had happened to the Rainbow Park Little Free Library, and was told it had been given to someone who could keep it on private property rather than in a city park.

Cousins, who calls herself the Little Free Library's "self-appointed" caretaker, said she could have put it in her yard if that was the issue, but said the park was an ideal community location.

It is located near a seniors facility and elementary school and was highly visible to people strolling through the park.

It also gave residents reading options while the two public library branches in Prince George are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Right now, we need books," said Cousins. "It's important for all of society to have access to books, and not everyone does."

A 'shelfie' of the Rainbow Park Little Free Library when it was up and running. (Little Free Libraries of PG/Facebook)

Daybreak North reached out to the city for further clarification on why it removed the free library.

Spokesperson Mike Kellett said the Rainbow Park library was built and installed as a result of a program created by a city committee that dissolved in 2017 and the city is ending the program now due to issues around maintenance and upkeep.

COVID-19 concerns were not mentioned as a contributing factor in the decision.

Tina Cousins says the Rainbow Park library was a very positive and connecting place for her neighbourhood, and accessible for seniors and children. (Little Free Libraries of PG/Facebook)

Cousins said she would like city permission to replace the library, noting she had been planning on creating a free pop-up library a few years ago before the Rainbow Park box was installed. 

But Cousins, who festively decorated the little library according to the season, might not want to toss her decor just yet.

Kellett said the city is talking to residents who are interested in the Little Free Library at Rainbow Park and is exploring options.

To hear the complete interview with Tina Cousins with host Caroline de Ryk on Daybreak North, click here.

With files from Daybreak North

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