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Neighbours see bigger as better when it comes to free “library”

The combined efforts of Elmira neighbours Larry Wiens, Dan Holt and Darren Martin led to the launch of what may be the largest take-one leave-one library box. [Damon Maclean]

At the corner of High and Charles streets in Elmira, three neighbours have come together to launch the new ‘Northeast Branch Elmira Library,’ a traditional bring-one-leave-one style lending library, featuring a growing selection of books, puzzles and holiday/birthday cards. What sets this new branch apart from a typical community library box is its size.

“It’s an idea I’ve had for a long time. I didn’t know how to get around to it,” said Dan Holt, who brought up the idea to neighbours Darren Martin and Larry Wiens.

“I had talked to both of them, and I hadn’t heard anything, and then all of a sudden, Darren said he had one (book hut), then Larry said he had one,” said Holt.

“I think this is the biggest one in Elmira, the guy that made it got started and kept on going.”

Holt estimates that the waterproofed library has room for an estimated 100 books. “We decided that puzzles would be a good thing to exchange – people get tired of the same puzzle. It’s got children’s books and adult books and everything in between.”

With the closure of all branches of the Region of Waterloo Library, many readers have quickly run out of their own material due to the overwhelming amount of free time on their hands. The new hut is a perfect opportunity to share some of their favourites with others and to discover new ones, he said.

For Holt, he has donated many of the books from his own personal library. Favourite writers of his include Dean Koontz and James Patterson, among others.

“My wife and I read stories to each other.” When one partner is busy the other will read aloud to them explains Holt, noting it’s a way to share the reading experience.

The box is open to donations of all kinds, including a sanitizing hand wipe container to reside permanently in the hut. The group of neighbours request that books are wiped before being placed in the hut to ensure that no germs spread – an extra safety measure put in place during times of COVID-19.

“An ongoing circulation of literature and puzzles … it gives people something to do while they are stuck at home,” said Holt.

 Although the larger one is now open for public use on Holt’s property, the other box will not go to waste. Holt and the team are looking for a community that would be interested in the other library box. Those interested  can contact Dan Holt by email at:

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