Family devastated after free library disappears from south Edmonton yard

The books were free for the taking. But somebody went too far and took the whole Little Free Library.

'It's crushing to feel that someone would take that away from our neighbourhood,' mom says

Little Free Library stolen from front yard of family home

5 years ago
Duration 1:03
A free library set up by Laurel Nikolai's family in Edmonton was stolen, container and all, from their yard just 10 days after it went up.

The books were free for the taking. But somebody went too far and took the whole Little Free Library.

Laurel Nikolai, her husband Peter MacKenzie and their twin daughters were devastated this week when they woke up to find their Little Free Library had disappeared from the front yard of their Pleasantview home near 56th Avenue and 107th Street.

"Our dad told us and we were like, 'You're kidding, how could that happen?' " 11-year-old Nicole MacKenzie said Friday. "It was so heavy and it was full of books."

A Little Free Library is a place for readers to exchange books. They are commonly placed in front yards or near street corners or bus stops. The name comes from a nonprofit organization that promotes them.

The Nikolai/MacKenzie family library had been carefully built and loaded with about 100 books. It was taken sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, after Peter had topped it with a chimney.

All the thieves left behind was a bucket of rocks that had been used to stabilize the little structure.

Building it had been a family project, a quiet activity they could do while Nicole's sister Katherine recovered from a broken back.

The library weighed about 80 pounds. Brightly painted and with a shingled roof, it was styled to resemble homes the family saw in Germany's Black Forest earlier this summer.
The library, weighing 80 pounds and loaded with 100 books, was styled to look like homes in Germany's Black Forest. (Nikolai/McKenzie family)

Nikolai said she can't imagine why anyone would take it.

"So much love and thought and hard work went into this and we really wanted to build community with it," she said. "It's crushing to feel that someone would take that away from our neighbourhood.

"You'd need a large vehicle, and to plan ahead of time, and that's really heartbreaking — that somebody actually planned to take our library."

50 people came when library opened

The library had only been in place for about 10 days. When the family first put it out, about 50 people came to see it and to share books. Katherine and Nicole ended that day reading books to other neighbourhood children.

Their mom said she still believes in the goodness of people. She thinks whoever took the library will realize they have taken something precious to her family, and return it.
Laurel Nikolai, Peter MacKenzie and their 11-year-old twins Nicole, left, and Katherine, right. (CBC)

"We were so proud of our library. I have to say it is a beautiful library. It's bigger than most but we have lots of books we like to share. And we really wanted to bring community and bring neighbours here."

The theft hasn't been reported to police but the family have posted on social media asking for its return.


Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.