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Carpentry students building street libraries for local community

Image of child exchanging books at street library box
An example of a street library in situ

Street libraries foster community spirit and encourage recycling and reuse – and Melbourne Polytechnic students are joining the movement, building a series of street libraries to place around all campuses.

These delightful mini-libraries are spotted on our endless walks around the neighbourhood, bright little wooden house with books to share across all ages, with welcoming messages and invitations to take one, leave one and enjoy reading.

The concept of street libraries started with the mission of expanding literacy around the country and encouraging participation – the essence of the word community. The street libraries movements has grown to 3074 around Australia with a target to have 5000 by the end of the year.

The students’ involvement came from the spark of idea and grew from there, much like the book-sharing phenomenon itself. Melbourne Polytechnic Sustainability Officer Dr Rachael Keefe was at the Fairfield campus where she spotted a book shelf with the sign ‘Free, help yourself. ‘I thought “why don't we have street libraries on campus?” It all came about from that first thought.’

When Rachael’s role took her to the Epping campus, discussions were had with the carpentry department and teacher Allan Davis loved the idea. The first Melbourne Polytechnic street libraries will get underway as soon as students are back on campus.

‘I just love the concept, it's a great community project.’ Allan says. ‘It suited me down to the ground, I was looking for a meaningful project for our students to get involved in which has been tough during 2021.’

Students have been working intermittently on the street library designs and are keen to get back into the workshops and get working on the structures.  Allan says ‘to have a project on campus is going to give the students a more focus which is a really great outcome’.

‘This project provides a circuit breaker for students, and adds some meaningful work. They'll be dead keen to get back. I’ve already told them what they're going to do; they all got excited, little sparks in their eyes.’

This group of students involved in the street library project are pre-apprenticeship Certificate II in Building and Construction Pre-apprenticeship​ 22614VIC which leads into the apprenticeship stream and the Certificate III in Carpentry CPC30220.

The hands-on street library project is estimated to take two weeks, the libraries will then be sent on to our painting and decorating students to finesse the final product, before settling in to their new spots around campuses. The libraries will look like little houses with a shingled roof and two transparent doors and are expected to hold around 50 books each.

Rachael says the project is not just about creating the structures, but about ‘giving the message on the benefits of street libraries and showcasing that to students. This is all about feeding back into our sustainability strategy, which is underpinned by continuing to encouraging reuse, reducing waste and community engagement.

‘The idea too is about our campuses being open and available to people in the community. For example the Preston campus has three street frontages so the addition of a street library demonstrates the sustainability message and shows that Melbourne Polytechnic is part of the local community as well.'

Sketch of a street library box
Drafting ideas for the Melbourne Polytechnic street libraries