A small house… full of stories

By Chris Lewis | Vol 7 No. 17 (Aug. 29, 2019)

Your old books can have a new home in Mount Pearl, with the help of one resident’s little library.

Maureen Duke Renouf has been a resident of Mount Pearl for over a decade, and has been an avid reader even longer. For the last five years, she has been spreading her love of books with not only her neighbours, but the rest of Mount Pearl.

It was on a trip to Calgary when she first came across a ‘little library’ at her nephew’s house.

Little libraries are small birdhouse-esque decorations sitting at the foot of a person’s driveway. However, instead of bird food waiting inside the small house for avian visitors, one can instead find second-hand books of all types and sizes for humans.

Maureen Duke Renouf has had a ‘little library’ sitting at the foot of her driveway for about five years. It serves as a repository for people to pick up second-hand books, and leave one behind that they have already read. Chris Lewis photo

Maureen Duke Renouf has had a ‘little library’ sitting at the foot of her driveway for about five years. It serves as a repository for people to pick up second-hand books, and leave one behind that they have already read. Chris Lewis photo

Duke Renouf said that after seeing the little structures on the west coast of the country, she wanted nothing more than to have one of her own, and bring the idea back to the east coast.

“I was really intrigued by it … I liked the thought of sharing a used book with other people, and I saw people coming and going and said to myself ‘I’ve got to have one of those in my garden,’” she told The Pearl.

A year later, on her birthday, Duke Renouf’s husband Terry gifted her with her very own little library. That one was a one-storey structure, which she proudly displayed at the end of her driveway for a number of years.

However, the library had become such a busy destination that an upgrade was necessary. Now, a larger library sits where the first one once did and, taking a look inside, it is clear the traffic coming and going to the library has yet to falter.

It has now been about five years that Duke Renouf has operated the little library, with the current one having just passed its third year.

“The first three years, I was frantic in trying to make sure there were enough books, enough of a selection … I was buying books, and hitting up some second-hand stores on the hunt for some books I could put in there for people,” she explained. “That’s when it was ‘my library.’ But now? Now, I like to call it the neighbourhood library. People are starting to share their own books, and it’s to the point now where I no longer have to worry if there are enough books there, because there are so many people coming and going.”

What doesn’t move, Duke Renouf takes down to Atlantic Place in downtown St. John’s, where another little library is located.

She says that although she’s named it a neighbourhood library, its reach goes well beyond streets in her part of Mount Pearl. She has seen people drive out from all over the city seeking out her little library, something she is quite happy with, as it gives her an opportunity to meet plenty of friendly folks and have worthwhile conversations here and there.

“I had a book once that Alan Doyle had written, it was a signed copy. I put it in my library one evening, and the next morning when I went to go to work, there was a $10-bill under my windshield wiper, and the book was gone,” Duke Renouf said, carefully adding that money is not a requirement for the library, and that this was a singular incident.

“I actually had another book that was signed. It was Justin Trudeau’s Common Ground. I liked it at one time, and wanted to pass it on, so I put that out there, but nobody took that one!” she added with a bout of laughter.

The little library is open to people of all ages. Duke Renouf tries to keep some kid-friendly reading material in stock from time to time as well.

She said she sees the library as a means of spreading the joy of reading with people around the community, and it always puts a smile on her face to see someone sifting through the books loaded up in the library, and sometimes even leaving a couple behind. Sometimes, she said, people even leave entire bags of books at her doorstep.

“It’s for all ages. The nicest thing is when you see someone who is a little more elderly come down the road and have a look. I always hope people manage to find a book they like,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll be out there when people come by, and they’ll stop and have a chat. We’ll go out to the garden and sit down and just talk - I love that. It makes the library even more special.”

Duke Renouf’s little library is hard to miss when driving along Michener Avenue – the box-shaped book deposit boasts a bright yellow-and-red colour scheme with a heart on the door. Above that, a little sign displays the words “This is a small house with a big welcome.” She says any and all are welcome to take a gander through the selection, and even leave something behind after their visit.

Posted on September 11, 2019 .