The Free Little Library: Nowra


The current pandemic has meant so many of us are now working from home. This morning while going through some old folders on my computer I came across some great photographs from projects conducted in the past. One of these was the Free Little Library in Nowra.

The Free Little Library was part of placemaking work conducted by Shoalhaven City Council in the Nowra CBD some years ago.


A group of Council staff members had been conducting a regular meeting regarding placemaking efforts in the Nowra CBD.

At one of these meetings it was announced that a laneway was to be opened between the Arts Centre and a building the Council owned in Berry Street. This would give pedestrians access to the main car park behind the library and Arts Centre. This announcement created some concern for a few people at the meeting i.e. safety and amenity. At the same time there had been some discussion about a Free Little Library. A decision was made to place the library in the laneway. The laneway had other placemaking actions including artificial turf on the surface and community urban art on both the Arts Centre and adjacent building.

Creating the Library

This was the fun part. A library could be made by Council or something else could be used. With one other staff member I visited the local Buy Back Shop at the Nowra Waste Management Facility where I saw the following item:

The Aviary

To me, the aviary was perfect. It was a good size and offered protection from the elements.

The aviary was purchased from the Buy Back Shop and taken to the Nowra Men’s Shed who had agreed to build a Free Little Library.

The Free Little Library Stage 1

The first step was to take everything off the structure, replace deteriorated parts and place a spare set of shelves that Council had in storage.

The finished product

Setting Up the Library

Council staff picked up the finished library from the Men’s Shed and placed it in the laneway. Books were sourced (from memory) from both the City Library and gifted by local Opportunity Shops.

We were ready to go.

The library was incredibly successful. Along with the artwork and easy access between the car park and the street it drew people into the laneway. Council didn’t have to restock the shelves.

Then disaster struck.

On one cold and windy August evening I saw a post on facebook that the little library was on fire. Perhaps a vandal, or someone seeking shelter from the winter winds had started a fire. It doesn’t matter…the library was badly damaged by fire.

We were heartbroken. As were many community members.

The story doesn’t end there. At the western end of the laneway was a small alcove. Another excess set of shelves were placed in the alcove. Again, the library flourished. People swapped books over. Each week it had almost totally different stock. One of the regular users said to me “this is one of the best things.”

Next to the shelves was a yellow piano. But that’s another story for another time.

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