Student shares love of literacy with Oak Bay library project

Sidney Hurst (right) and her father Steven Hurst stand with the little free library the teen built as part of her graduation capstone project at Oak Bay High. (Photo by Sarah Nguyen)Sidney Hurst (right) and her father Steven Hurst stand with the little free library the teen built as part of her graduation capstone project at Oak Bay High. (Photo by Sarah Nguyen)
Oak Bay High student Evan Warburton, who helped finish and install a little library in Redfern Park, also built one for his street. (Courtesy Evan Warburton)Oak Bay High student Evan Warburton, who helped finish and install a little library in Redfern Park, also built one for his street. (Courtesy Evan Warburton)

An Oak Bay High student’s legacy of literacy will live on beyond her graduation this spring.

Sidney Hurst designed, built and installed the region’s 600th little free library, adjacent to Bowker Creek, as her capstone project.

“The location along the restored section of Bowker Creek was perfect for this, as it has become such a vibrant and accessible green space for the school and the broader community, and I hope my project will serve to further enhance that community space,” Hurst said.

Bowker Creek Books stands adjacent to the walkway behind the school, where students continue to play an integral role in remediating the waterway. Alongside community volunteers and others, students were involved in restoration completed in 2015 that included winding the water path, adding native plants and an outdoor classroom, as well as the walkway.

READ ALSO: Little libraries stock chalk across Greater Victoria to spread positive messages

Capstone projects can involve research, developing a new skill, or assembling a portfolio. Hurst researched, built and installed the library to share her passion for reading and give back to the community.

“I think little free libraries are such a cool concept, not only because of how they provide books and benefit communities, but also how they promote sustainability, and those aspects combined inspired me to build a little free library as my final project,” she said.

The Greater Victoria Placemaking Network (GVPN) maps the little libraries across the region and tracks milestones as part of its Pocket Places Project. The small public book boxes – which include puzzles, seeds and even act as community pantries – create places for people to meet, interact and build community, said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a GVPN volunteer board and Pocket Places Project lead.

“I’ve had a good number of friendships start with a chance encounter at a little free library. As we see more little free libraries spreading throughout the region, we create more spaces for community to flourish,” he said.

The project has helped set up more than 75 libraries and delivered close to 57,000 books to top them up.

READ ALSO: Students, teacher, community members in Oak Bay, Victoria replace library

Oak Bay High students aren’t new to the little free library phenomenon. A handful of students installed a replacement library in Redfern Park last month. The library was built by Grade 10 student Henry Baker with finishing and installation help from Grade 11 students Noah Scott and Evan Warburton. A week later, Warburton finished building one at home and installed it in his neighbourhood a few blocks away.

Mayor Kevin Murdoch is also an avid user of the community libraries.

“They not only provide a great service, they connect people, support a culture of generosity, and bring joy to everyone, even those only walking by admiring their design,” Murdoch said.

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca


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