Woman builds adorable DIY outdoor libraries featuring books by people of colour

Have you ever seen those tiny little bookshelves in people’s gardens encouraging you to leave an old book and take one that you haven’t read?

These are outdoor libraries, and they are great way to encourage reading in your local community, and to rehome old books in a sustainable way.

And one savvy DIY-lover has shared how she was able to make her own outdoor library – and use it to improve visibility specifically for writers of colour.

Crystal Norbert used her homemade library as the starting point to launch See Me On The Page – a community project that encourages the visibility of Black and Black mixed-race lead characters in books in the borough of Hackney, London.

‘By introducing and promoting these books, we want to develop the self-esteem of those who do not ordinarily see characters that look like themselves in print and encourage children and young people to acknowledge and celebrate their differences whilst also promoting reading,’ says Crystal.

‘Our aim is to get more diverse books into homes, schools and various institutions across Hackney, so that more diverse narratives about Black children and young people can be shared.’

See Me On The Page is a not for profit initiative that relies on the donation of books to keep the project running. If you want to donate, you can check out their Amazon wish list for the books they need.

The project is open 3.30pm-5pm on Thursdays in Well Street. And you can find out more via their social media pages on Twitter and Instagram. 

So, if you want to do some good in your community – or simply find a new home for all those books that are cluttering up your bedside table – why not have a go at making one for yourself?

Crystal has outlined the key steps she took to make the library, exactly what she used, and how much it cost.

How to make the outdoor library

Materials:

Pallet wood and old shelves, hinges, nails, felt shed roofing, lock/hasp and perspex.

  • Pallet wood was salvaged from the road-side, the old shelves were donated
  • Perspex – £12 from Amazon
  • Hinges – pack of two £1 hardware store
  • Felt roofing – donated
  • Clout nails – £2.50 hardware store
  • Normal nails – £2 hardware store
  • Lock and hasp – £8 hardware store
  • Paint – £15 hardware store

Total – £40.50

How to put it together:

Step 1

  • Cut the sides (using a handsaw).
  • Use the old shelves and palette wood to cut the sides. Height and width depends on preference.
  • Please note that the brig HR should be sloped at a 6 degree angle to keep out rain, snow etc.

Step 2

  • Cut the back. 
  • Again measurements vary depending on box size.
  • Don’t forget to cut at a six degree angle.

Step 3

  • Cut the bottom to size.

Step 4

  • Cut the roof to size but at a 6 degree angle to account for the slope.

Step 5

  • Assemble the pieces using outdoor screws (4 screws for each for every two pieces).
  • Preferably drill the holes to avoid splitting the wood.

Step 6

  • Install roof so it overhangs on the left and right side equally (approx 2 inches on each side).
  • Ensure roof overhangs the front of the library. 
  • Put together using outdoor screws. Preferably drill the holes to avoid splitting the wood.
  • Paint the box. 

Step 6

  • Cut the door.
  • Cut four pieces to desired measurements.
  • Cut 45 degrees angles into each side of each piece. Glue pieces together.
  • Paint the door.

Step 7 

  • Add felt to the roof.

Step 8

  • Install door, drill holes and add hinges. 

Step 9

  • Add latch or lock.

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