National | CHUBU CONNECTION

Aichi town residents setting up mini libraries to get locals reading, chatting

Chunichi Shimbun

Higashiura Town Central Library in Aichi Prefecture is working with local residents to build mini libraries in the town so that residents have more opportunities to read books. Through it, the effort aims to nurture a stronger community.

Known as the Guruguru Toshokan (Library on the Move) project, books will be stocked by willing participants in various locations, such as stores, offices, old houses and grape farms. The books will be those owned by the volunteers as well as volumes that the library lacks space for.

“By creating places in town for people to discover books easily, we hope to encourage people to build relations through books and restore the bonds of the community,” a project member said.

A local resident group, Yomurabi Supporters, has helped the library with various activities and made numerous proposals. It is currently looking into the requirements for registering as a mini library. It will start looking for owners who can participate once they have finalized the details.

Junko Suzuki, 53, one of the members, plans to convert a room in her home into a mini library called Ehon no Ouchi (Picture Book House), for which access will be limited to members only.

Suzuki, who has taught English at a Japanese junior college, studied children’s literature for a year at an American graduate school, where she gathered a few hundred English picture books. She also owns many children’s literature books as well.

Since Suzuki’s child used to be sickly, she is determined to create an environment that is inviting to parents with ailing or disabled children, as well as families with babies who are hesitant to go to public libraries.

“I want them to feel the joy of reading,” she said.

Meanwhile, some people are thinking of offering their old Japanese-style houses as mini libraries.

With the help of her friends, Ayano Soboi, 29, is renovating the 70-year-old wooden house that used to belong to her grandparents to make the house a space for local residents to interact.

Also serving as a local branch leader for a nonprofit organization aimed at helping working mothers, Soboi plans to use the house for various classes and gatherings, in addition to it being a mini library, where she will store parenting books and children’s books.

“I want to create a relaxing place so that people won’t be isolated in society,” she said.

After renovation is finished, Soboi plans to reopen the house in early September.

Other owners in unique locations are also preparing mini libraries.

Residents will soon be able to read books on professional architecture that libraries do not offer at the Kazuhiro Manki design office, books on natural food and the environment in a butcher shop, and reference books on social welfare and picture books owned by an NPO. The owners of a grape farm and vegetable garden will also be contributing to the project as well as the town’s volunteer center.

The central library is planning an event to celebrate its 15th anniversary on July 3, and the owners are working to get their libraries ready by then. Members are also creating a flag to promote the project.

“Amid debate on what kind of books public libraries should offer, it is important that we also incorporate ideas and suggestions from users and locals who are passionate about the issue, rather than depend on the staff alone,” said Koji Narita, who heads the central library.

“I hope that we can work together with the residents to create a new library,” he added.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on April 25.

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