Thursday, February 29, 2024
February 29, 2024

Two ferry terminals added to little library list

When the COVID pandemic was interfering with Salt Spring Islanders’ easy access to books, Margriet Ruurs and her husband Kees started mapping “little libraries” on the island, with a view to encouraging their use and expansion. 

From that she created a Facebook page called SSI Little Libraries and an interactive map that shows the locations of what are now some 30 different outdoor spots where people can take or trade a book for free. She also offered “starter kits” to people interested in setting up a little library.

For Ruurs, an award-winning author of many children’s books and a self-described “book matchmaker,” the project turned out to be a lot of fun and she said she has received nothing but positive comments about it. 

“But I kept thinking, you know, the three best spots to have a free little library would be the ferry terminals,” she said last week. “I thought it would be perfect to offer free books to people travelling and tourists coming to the island, but also people leaving to go on a trip and saying, ‘Oh, shoot, I don’t have a book.’” 

Ruurs girded her loins, thinking it would be a battle to convince the ferry corporation about the benefits of her plan, but that fear turned out to be misplaced. 

“I really expected it to be much more difficult to get permission to install the little libraries on ferry property, but when I approached the terminal manager for all the Gulf Islands, he was so excited and so supportive,” she said.

Derrick Greenhalgh is BC Ferries’ manager of terminal operations for Swartz Bay and the Southern Gulf Islands. 

“BC Ferries plays a major role within the community and many people spend a lot of time in our terminals,” he said, in explaining his support for the idea. “Because of this, when Margriet reached out to me about adding little libraries to the terminals I was instantly excited and saw it as a great opportunity. The books in these libraries will not only give our customers something to do while they wait and travel, but also encourage reading and offer up a sense of community. I believe that anything we can do to improve our customers’ experience is worth considering and felt adding these little libraries would do just that.”

Ruurs said she was “thrilled” with the response from Greenhalgh and the ferry personnel at Long Harbour and Fulford terminals. 

But Ruurs also needed someone to build or find the structures, and she immediately thought of the Rotary Club of Salt Spring Island, due to Rotary’s traditional support of literacy causes. Rotary is also a partner in Salt Spring Literacy’s Books & Bling sale, contributing $2,500 annually to help cover costs of putting on the fundraiser. 

Ruurs garnered Rotary support for her idea after doing a presentation for the local club, and president Richard Swann and long-time member Mike Garside have worked with her on the project. The result is a bookshelf now in place inside the Fulford terminal waiting room and another at Long Harbour.

“The one at Fulford I bought,” said Garside. “I just had to add a shelf and a backing to it. It was almost perfect.”

The Long Harbour shelving unit was scooped up by Ruurs when listed for sale by the Anglican church.  

A little library is also planned for the Vesuvius terminal but the exact spot has not yet been determined due to the lack of a waiting room there. And ultimately the goal is to have libraries outside at the terminals as well — ideally ones shaped like ferries and/or with a porthole in the design. 

Ruurs said something that is still needed is for people who live near the ferry terminals to “adopt” the libraries, perhaps checking on them once a week to ensure they are tidy. Ferries staff have so far taken care of the  areas, but she would like book-loving neighbours to be involved too. 

In stocking the shelves she has included some books by local authors and ones on regional topics, and ferry or marine-themed books for kids. If people have some appropriate books they would like to donate, they can reach Ruurs at ruurs@shaw.ca or 250-537-2440.

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