I thought I had died and gone to heaven. There were books everywhere. You had to squeeze through the stacks of boxes and endless shelves in order to find your way to another section and there were hidden rooms filled with yet more books. When we first walked in I was actually a little overwhelmed at the sheer mountain of reading material in front of me. It seemed to defy belief!
We had walked into “The Book Barn” which does what it says on the tin. A massive barn full of 2nd hand books for your buying and swapping pleasure. I spent hours in there and came out with a massive stack of books and an even bigger grin. Yet another gem we had discovered on our road trip and such a wonderful one.
Reading is a huge passion of mine but there has always been a slight problem. When I was still in the rat race I used to fantasise about having enough time and, more importantly, energy, to actually read. I hope I am not the only one that would wake up with a book flopped over their face wondering what time it was and why it was so dark all of a sudden. I would grab a page here or there in a fervent attempt to quickly enjoy a bite of my passion before rushing off somewhere or promptly falling asleep (again).
And then came travel with its truly fabulous amount of down time. I had the time to read a book a day if I wanted. I had the energy to enjoy more non-fiction than I used to and wonderfully, Peter had joined me in my enthusiasm for the written word. He does like to read but given his dyslexia and time constraints of the work day he didn’t read too much before we ventured out into the world. Now I could barely get him to stop! We could spend hours barely saying a word to each other due to being so engrossed in the fantasy worlds we had entered.
My main issue was choosing books to take with me travelling (I had not signed on to the kindle way of life) and how to replenish that stock when I had finished. We inadvertently found the answer to this problem in Dunedin.
So far in New Zealand we had been buying cheap books from the ever wonderful Op Shops. This meant we were carrying a massive mini library with us in Nessie our camper van and still having to pay for more books once we had read everything.
On a random whim one gloriously sunny day on the Otago peninsula we stumbled across a “book bus” which was a mobile library. We decided to go in on the off chance that they might sell second hand books. On asking they said that they didn’t but a wonderful kind and gentle old lady aboard the bus turned to me and stated “you want the Lilliput library!” I didn’t quite know what she meant so she pointed to the nearest Lilliput library and explained the concept.
Basically it’s a tiny little swap shop of books. About the size of a small version of a British post box and adorned with paintings and decorations of literary characters (my favourite that we found was Beatrix Potter themed) these tiny chunks of brilliance were dotted all around Dunedin and the peninsula and full of books. Any old or unwanted books could be placed in the Lilliput library and then taken by anyone who was passing who wanted a new book to read. You could also leave a book to return the favour which we always did. There was no money exchanged, just a faith in the goodness of the human spirit and the mutual love of reading. What a truly fantastic idea!
Having joyfully investigated the first one and dutifully swapping two books for two books we drove on in the search for more. They are often on unassuming streets, sometimes within housing estates and often difficult to spot unless you know what you’re looking for but Peter and I had gotten the bug! We were addicted to finding more and discovering what other opportunities we could find within them. Each new Lilliput library that we discovered felt like uncovering a brand new treasure chest and we both managed to find some fantastic books that we enjoyed within them.
I had never come across a scheme like this before but sincerely hope it continues and spreads into many other regions and countries. After all, you never know what you might uncover as you turn the next page.