Chilliwack rallies to rebuild Yarrow’s Free Little Library after it’s destroyed by arson

Barely a year old, Yarrow’s Free Little Library was set on fire on Canada Day

It all started early Canada Day morning when Yarrow’s Little Free Library was set on fire and a local farm hand shared a picture of the structure burning on Facebook.

“We got a call at 5:30 a.m. about a burning (library) box,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail. “But unfortunately, we don’t have much more to go on at this time.”

By the time the police arrived, the fire had been put out and the Little Free Library had been destroyed, yet that wasn’t destined to be the end of its story.

As the flaming photo of the Little Free Library made its rounds on social media, the community began to rage at the injustice, but they also started coming together to right a wrong.

Built in 2016, the Little Free Library was a gift to the community at large from the Yarrow Kids’ Club, and it was placed in Pioneer Park, near the washrooms in the spring of 2017 so it could be accessed by almost everybody.

“We like to take on different projects,” said Amy Klassen, who helps facilitate the Kids’ Club. “We look around at the needs of the community and one of our groups came up with this idea.

“My dad, (Vic Giesbrecht), built it with one of my daughters, then the Club was in charge of painting it, adding decorations and books, and setting it up.”

The Little Free Library movement, which got its start in Wisconsin in 2009, strives to inspire a love of reading, community interaction, and creativity by fostering neighbourhood book exchanges globally.

The first Yarrow Free Little Library was installed in spring 2017. (Submitted by Amy Klassen)

When they first put up the Free Little Library, Klassen said she wasn’t sure the community would like the idea as much as the Kids’ Club had, and was pleasantly surprised.

“I wondered if people would use it, but when I went to check on the original books we put in a few weeks later, it had all new books,” recalled Klassen happily. “The turn over indicated that people were using it and that was great.”

READ MORE: Little Free Library opens its little doors at Cultus Lake

What wasn’t great for Klassen, though, was learning of the Free Little Library’s demise, and having to share the news with her father.

But, like the rest of the community, Giesbrecht simply looked on the positive side: he’d enjoyed building the first one and now had an opportunity to build another.

“He actually had one partially completed,” explained Klassen. “My dad is very fast, and had (so much) fun building the first one he was building another. And since it wasn’t needed for anything else (we repurposed it to replace the now burnt one). It’s just perfect.”

However, until Yarrow’s Free Little Library could be replaced, members of the community stepped up and installed an impromptu stand-in structure until the new one can be set up.

Located against the wall of the park’s public washrooms now stands an old wooden stereo stand with a glass door and a handwritten signs that read, “Good always out does bad,” and “Young people made bad choices and burnt the library. They aren’t bad just made bad choices.”

There’s also a can of blank thank-you cards for people to fill out for Amy Klassen and her father, Vic Giesbrecht, who installed the original Free Little Library, and a note that says, “Without Amy and Vic we would not have known how nice a community library is. Thank you.”

“My dad and I received these notes and it was overwhelming,” said Klassen. “In the notes are all these encouraging words from people about how much they like the (library) and used it.

“This could’ve been a real opportunity for people to get negative and sour, but instead it turned into a way to affirm the positivity within the community, which is really, really an encouraging thing (that turns) the focus on how we can encourage and rebuild. It’s a real testimony to the spirit of the community.”

And not just the Yarrow community.

Due to the wonders of social media, shortly after Yarrow lost its Free Little Library, Amber Price—who owns The Book Man and started a Free Little Library in Cultus Lake—learned of its fate.

“Senseless acts of destruction have a way of bringing out the best in people,” said Price. “Standing up as a community against thoughtless acts is such a powerful, healing experience for everyone involved.”

“I saw the (picture of) the fire and thought, ‘We could help replace their books!’” Price said, who donated three banana boxes full of books to restock the new Yarrow Free Little Library.

“Little Free Libraries are such a cool community initiative. They become community centres where sharing books is a way to connect with your neighbours,” Price added.

“Some times something happens that can be discouraging,” said Klassen about the fire. “But that didn’t happen here—it was the opposite. The community really came together and rallied” and less than two weeks after it was destroyed, Yarrow’s Free Little Library will be back in action.

On Thursday, July 11, after adding their personal touches to the latest structure built by Giesbrecht, the the Yarrow Kids’ Club will be installing a brand new library in the old library’s spot, complete with a new selection of books.

Things like the Free Little Library “brings people out from their houses and gets them meeting each other and feeling like a community,” said Klassen. “And now that can continue.”

Anyone with any information about the burning of Yarrow’s Little Free Library is urged to contact the Chilliwack RCMP or Crime Stoppers.


@SarahGawdin
Sarah.Gawdin@theprogress.com

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