Sheri Parke, South Vancouver coordinator for Neighbourhood Small Grants, connected me with Jackie Barone about her idea to create a Little Free Library outside Historic Joy Kogawa House.
We found a couple of theatre artists to help build the library. I invited Susan Miyagishima to build a miniature Kogawa House for us and she agreed. Together with Jenn Stewart, another theatre props artist, our Little Free Library took shape in August 2018. Theatre props artist Susan Miyagishima had built a miniature (scale-model) house for the play 1 Hour Photo, written by former Kogawa House writer-in-residence Tetsuro Shigematsu, and together with Tetsuro, Susan and others at Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre had won a Jessie Richardson award for the “outstanding technical design and execution for the purpose of historical storytelling” they brought to the 2017 production of the play. Susan Miyagishima would bring to the project this talent as well as an understanding of the internment experience, arising from her background as a Canadian of Japanese origin whose family members were interned.
The house was installed on a post under the fir tree next to the sidewalk and steps from the street by heritage contractor John Quinton of Quinton Construction.
Children and parents from the neighbourhood inaugurated the Little Free Library at an event on Friday, November 2, 4:00 to 5:00 pm. Singer-songwriter and current writer-in-residence Joseph Maviglia read a poem. Poet Catriona Strang also read from her collection of poems about Little Free Libraries in East Vancouver. The outreach librarian from the Marpole branch of Vancouver Public Library pulled the ribbon to open the library. Children and neighbours brought books to contribute.
The benefits of the library are as follows:
- connects us with the community as a leader in reading and literacy
- shows what the 1912 house looked like when Joy lived there as a child
- helps disperse and reduce the number of free books currently stored in the basement, many of which were donated by Vancouver literary community and some of which came from the former Characters bookstore, a landmark establishment on Granville Street in the Marpole neighbourhood.
Thanks to the Neighbourhood Small Grants and Vancouver Foundation for financial support and inspiration.