Liz Franzen loves books so much, she has a little free library outside her Saanich home so others can love books too.
“I read pretty much everything. I enjoy it,” she said. “Always reading.”
The library was a perfect fit for Franzen because its blue hues matched her house. “It was a Christmas gift from my son and daughter and their spouses,” she recalled.
But on the morning of Friday, Nov. 10, when she got a knock on her door saying the library was on fire, shock quickly turned to disappointment for the bibliophile.
“It had been smouldering for a long time. No idea when it happened,” said Franzen, adding that after a call to the fire department, the blaze was determined to be intentional.
However, with no witnesses, who did it remains a mystery.
“It just made me very, very sad that someone would do that and deprive myself and the community of some enjoyment with the books,” said Franzen.
“It’s just, you know, unnecessary destruction,” added Kristy Colpron, Frazen’s daughter.
“I don’t think that whoever did it really stops to think about not just the fact that you’re wrecking something, but also what that does to the person it belongs to and then the effect it has on the community as well.”
The guy who built it was disappointed too, so he’s going to rebuild it and has temporarily relocated it to his shop.
“That charred area there, that’s where the fire started,” said retiree Ray Young, pointing to a damaged area inside the library. “I came by to have a look, and, unfortunately, it can’t be rebuilt.
“It has to be built from scratch again.”
A new passion project
For the former management consultant, woodworking has been a lifelong hobby. But crafting little libraries that look just like the houses they sit in front of is a newer passion.
“I think I’m nearing 20 libraries now and of which, probably 17, 18 are replica houses,” he said. “Once someone sees someone’s library, they usually give me a call as well.”
So he’s booked up with orders.
“I’ve got four on back order and another four or five pending, so it’s quite busy,” said Young.
There are more than 700 little free libraries in Greater Victoria, and the ones built by Young can be found throughout the region, including on Parry Street in James Bay.
“I guess the beauty of this one is that the woman who lives here had it made to look exactly like the heritage house she lives in,” said one passerby, amazed by the library outside Beckley Cottage that took Young about six months to complete.
From plywood to pallets, he launched his business, I Used to be a Pallet, five or six years ago, taking inspiration from his dad.
“And when I retired, we just spend time together woodworking now,” he said.
“He comes by every day, six, seven days a week, and we work together for a couple hours in the morning, have lunch and then he’s on his way to meet his friends.”
Elsewhere, one of Young’s libraries is at the University of British Columbia, and closer to home on Manton and Richardson streets in Victoria, to name a few. New libraries will be installed soon in Fernwood, Rockland and Oak Bay.
It’s a cross-generational skill that brings people together to read a story, or share one.
“Lots of people came by with books. It was nice because we’d chat. People in the neighbourhood would say, ‘Oh, I put books in because I took some out,'” said Franzen.
“I know one of my customers, they also put in not just books but food for others as well to come by in need,” added Young.
View more of his work here.