Volunteer Spotlight: Lori Nick

Lori Nick at Castle Park Little Free Library

I really like having a Little Free Library in my neighborhood because I can see the community using it… as much as I’ve given in volunteer time, I’ve gotten way more back.”

Lori Nick come by her love of reading honestly. Both of her parents were readers, and she can distinctly recall trips to the bookstore and library with her father as a child. This love of books, and of sharing books with others, has helped shape her career: first as a teacher, and then as a Library Technician with Terry Fox Library. She is passionate about increasing access to books – whether that’s through coordinating the Reading Link Challenge with local schools, organizing the Summer Book Club for readers of all ages, or launching a Sensory Storytime for children with sensory processing sensitivities. It’s this same passion that inspired her to champion the Little Free Library movement in Port Coquitlam.

Lori doesn’t remember when she first heard of Little Free Libraries, but she does remember the first one she saw in Port Coquitlam, which was located at Kiddies Korner Preschool on the corner of Shaughnessy and Prairie. “Oh my gosh, if they can put one up, then I can put one up somewhere” she remembers thinking. But living in a cul-de-sac, she suspected a Little Free Library in her front yard wouldn’t get much use, so she reached to the City to ask what the process would be to get approval to install a Library in Castle Park. As it turned out, there was no such process in place. She eventually reached out directly to then-mayor Greg Moore, who said he believed it was a great idea, and helped her to get the ball rolling. “If you’re really passionate about something, like I am about literacy… if you say no, I’m not going to accept that,” she laughs. “If there’s no reasoning behind it, then, I don’t know, it just makes me want to try harder”.

With the help of a grant from the Tri-Cities Literacy Committee and the handyman skills of her husband John, Lori officially opened the Little Free Library at Castle Park on February 1st, 2015. She also launched a Facebook page for the Library, to help build awareness, announce new book drops, and provide a place for users to interact. Over the years, she’s received lots of wonderful comments and photos from users there. “Love this library for my Granddaughters when they come to visit, and for myself!” writes ones Port Coquitlam resident. “The girls think it is really neat to go the play park and then take home story books for a bed time read!”

Lori didn’t stop at just one more Little Free Library in Port Coquitlam, though. As part of her role at Terry Fox Library, Lori was participating in meetings with the Tri-Cities Literacy Committee, which seeks to make sure that everyone in the Tri-Cities has access to reading materials and literacy programs. In early 2015, the Tri-Cities Literacy Committee had formed a subcommittee to brainstorm ways to help promote literacy in the Citadel Heights area. With Terry Fox Library being more than a 30 minute walk away for residents, Lori suggested building Little Free Libraries in the area to help improve access to reading materials, and the Tri-Cities Literacy Committee agreed. Working with the City, the Committee reached out to local daycares, preschools and community groups, offering grants to help build a Little Free Library for groups that would be interested in stewarding one. On April 27th, 2016, the community celebrated the launch of five additional Little Free Libraries across the Citadel Heights area with an unveiling ceremony, cupcakes, and story time. Today, there are more than 16 Little Free Libraries across Port Coquitlam, including Little Libraries installed in Aggie, Elks, McLean and Evergreen Parks.

Lori visits her Library an average of once a week, maintaining the library collection and completing light maintenance to keep the library safe for the community. The day we met to take a photo for her spotlight, Lori had just finished taking out a few damaged books and a microwave manual, and was restocking it with some fresh donations. She says that some users seem to mistake it for a Lost and Found, leaving children’s shoes or jackets, or even open cans of soda. Most users are respectful, however, though Lori does have a few tips for those leaving donations. Heavily damaged books – especially where the cover has been ripped off – are not likely to get picked up. And while hardcover books are great, they’re best donated during the summer months. “The books do get moisture damage over the winter,” Lori explains, ”so I try not to put in hard covers or anything like that during the wet seasons, because it’s just a waste of an expensive book.” Children’s books are always appreciated – being so close to the playground and spray park, they get picked up quickly, and don’t circulate back as often as adult books. Some of Lori’s favourite experiences as a Little Free Library steward have been looking in on the Library while driving by and seeing children sitting around the Library on playground structures, reading books that they have picked out. “It just makes me super happy to see people using the library, it’s so awesome” she smiles.

The City of Port Coquitlam would like to thank Lori for making such a positive impact on the community!

Read more about the City’s Little Library initiative and find a Little Free Library near you at www.portcoquitlam.ca/littlelibrary.