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Chilukthan Sloughside Free Book Swap

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Seeing the inside of the Ladner home of Margaret and Tod Jensen, it’s not difficult to understand why they’d be the creators behind the Chilukthan Sloughside free book swap. Their home is festooned and adorned with a wide variety of books, eclectic items and cultural artifacts gathered from all over the world.

It is therefore fitting that this book swap is similarly a collection of random authors from all over the world, covering topics with just as much diversity.

The Jensens had long wanted to create the book swap after seeing similar installations in Vancouver in the form of little bookshelves pounded into trees or small boxes propped up by houses.

The couple were driving home recently and and saw a cabinet sitting out on the sidewalk with a “for free” sign. It was a sign, in more ways than one, that their book swap idea should come to life.

“Plus we had the paint already,” says Margaret, laughing.

Indeed, the cabinet is dramatically painted in lime green and fire engine red, decorated with friendly shapes like a heart, smiley face, and the universal sign for “peace”. The books are covered behind an oil cloth curtain with a fabric pattern of strawberries, something the couple admits isn’t altogether waterproof.

“Realistically we know that once the rains start we’ll probably have to make some alterations,” says Margaret.

For now, however, the cabinet is a real eye-catching conversation starter. During the short time I’m at the Jensen’s house to interview them there are several stops from passersby who browse the library for something interesting.

The top three shelves are for adult or young adult, and then the cabinet at the bottom is for children’s books. Tod says they’ve had quite a good turnover for books already and there are always some new additions to the library every morning.

Speaking of which, the Jensens aren’t trying to replace the public library. On the contrary, it’s supplemental.

“It’s just an opportunity for people to easily access a book,” says Tod. “It’s free, they can also pick whatever they’d like based on whatever is available. And lots of times people have books hanging around they want to share. So it is a kind of community exchange.”

Margaret agrees. The colours and decorations are to attract people to take a closer look at the bookshelf, but the interaction of people is the best part.

It can be tough to get people reading a book in the digital age, where people are glued to their mobile devices. But the couple say there’s still a strong attraction to bound paper.

“I think there’s advantages to reading books online in that they’re obviously portable. You can have a bazillion books on your iPad and off you go,” says Margaret. “But there’s something about the feel of a book that’s quite different than online.”

“—It’s a comfort thing,” chimes in Tod, before his wife continues.

“The font, the feel of the paper, the publishing details, the margins, the ditches, all of those kinds of things make a difference with a physical book.”

If you’d like to pick up a free book or drop one off you can find the Chilukthan Sloughside Free Book Swap on the right side of the end of 52A Street in Ladner, at the last house before the turnaround circle.

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