Tiny libraries becoming a big success

A popular Lilliput Library on Merchiston St in Anderson’s Bay. Inset: Ruth Arnison
A popular Lilliput Library on Merchiston St in Anderson’s Bay. Inset: Ruth Arnison

Dunedin's homegrown Lilliput Libraries system is going from strength to strength and hopes to have 40 miniature libraries running by the middle of the year. 

Ruth Arnison, the founder of Lilliput Libraries and Poems in the Waiting Room, said the project had been embraced by the community and she was fielding calls every week from people wanting to pitch in, or to request a library for their area.

Eight Lilliput libraries are operating around Dunedin and another four will open this month.

A further seven will be ready for painting by local artists in early February.

''All the guardians [of the libraries] report that there has been a lot of interest. Over the holidays, the Aramoana library was particularly popular,'' Ms Arnison said.

''Once all 40 are up and running, I am hoping to have a map so people can hunt the Lilliputs.''

Lilliput Libraries operate on a trust and exchange system. People donate books to stock the libraries and a local ''guardian'' volunteers to have the library on their fence line, keep an eye on it and make sure the library is full.

Any member of the public is welcome to take - and keep - a book from any of the Lilliputs, although Ms Arnison encourages people to give back to the libraries when they get a chance.

''It's great if people do give back to the libraries but we have a huge supply of stock, so it's not essential, and I don't want people to feel any pressure about that aspect of the library.

''I just want readers to enjoy them - and the zero late fees.''

Local organisations such as The Taieri Blokes Shed have started work constructing 10 libraries this month, and Ms Arnison is looking for funding so joinery students at the Otago Corrections Facility can help, as well.

''The neat thing is the inmates will gain credits towards the qualifications by building the Lilliputs.''

Local artists who have painted Lilliputs include Janet de Wagt, Ewan McDougall, Pamela Brown, Kerry MacKay, Aroha Novak, Sarah Flourish and Sheryl McCammon. Students from Bayfield High School will also paint a couple. Ms Arnison said Resene was suppling paint.

''There has also been interest [in the Lilliputs] from Christchurch and Central Otago, but at this stage, mainly because of funding, we're concentrating on Dunedin.

''After all, we are a Unesco City of Literature.''

Anyone interested in becoming a Lilliput Library guardian or providing books can contact Ruth Arnison at waitingroompoems@gmail.com

- Eleanor Ainge Roy 

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