Swap Box Tour

Every few years my kids decide to do a thorough clean&purge of their rooms as they grow and their interests evolve. Result: many books, toys and trinkets they are ready to part with. Swap boxes are great for such occaisions. Here’s how they work: usually streetside, passersby are enticed to open them up. If something in there strikes their fancy they can exchange it with something else.

We were inspired to put up a swap box in front of our place after discovering a number of others around town, created by the late street artist Elmaks. Since then many more swap boxes have appeared. Most of them are specific to the exchange of books, but they work on the same premise. There is even an online group you can register your book swap box called Little Free Libraries. Here’s an article in the Kitchissippi Times on some local little libraries.

But to get on this tour there’s no need to register online with any group. Just tell me where your swap box is and I’ll include it on the itinerary!

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2017: I’ve been adding stops along the route as new boxes are being discovered. If I’ve missed any please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it on the route.


First stop – Cambridge St North, just north of the Chinatown Arch. This box even has it’s own Twitter handle .

Cambridge St N Swap Box
Cambridge St N Swap Box

Next stop, corner of Primrose & Arthur. Now THIS is a multi-compartmental swap box extravaganza! UPDATE-May ’17: Sadly the little black doors got ripped off this winter.

Primrose & Arthur Swap Box
Primrose & Arthur Swap Box

Down Nanny Goat Cliff, at the corner of Preston and Elm, there sits the cleverly converted newspaper box Book Exchange. There’s even a bike rack, lest you wish to dwindle while perusing the selection of swappable tomes, or pop in to the Preston Food Market for a Kit Kat.

Preston & Elm book exchange
Preston & Elm book exchange

Infront of 125 Young St sits this cute swap box.

125 Young St.jpg
125 Young St

This next box on Melrose Avenue is a clever take on the ‘A-frame’.

A-Frame Box on Melrose Avenue

Next stop is in the heart of Hintonburg near the corner of Oxford & Pinehurst. This one has quite the history.  In the Fall of 2016 someone complained about the original bungalow style design to city by-law and the owners were told to take it down by September 16th. Fortunately there was a last minute stay of execution and the Hintonburg swap box got a reprieve. They were asked to replace it with another.

New Hintonburg box
Hintonburg Swap Box before….and after

Heading west, we discover our next swap box on Garrinson St just west of Carleton Ave. This one is all about books. Gotta admire the use of re-cycled roof shingles to ward off the elements which paperbacks are especially prone to.

Garisson Box
Garisson Box

A short distance away, just south of Wellington on Mayfair, sits another super sweet Little Free Library. This one is hosted by one of the finest elementary school teachers we’ve had the good fortune to get to know.

Madame Vicky's Swap Box
Madame Vicky’s Swap Box

Route takes a slight deviation to visit a couple of boxes, starting with this great Little Library box on Kenora St.

Kenora St. box

Next one is on Ruskin Street. Now this one has a bit of a disturbing history – someone with arsonist tendencies was caught on tape setting a previous incarnation of the box on flames! But the udaunted swap box owners said ‘Screw you arsonist!’, and rebuilt their box.

Ruskin box
Ruskin Street new & improved little library

The next one is a super sweet little swap box on Cole Avenue.

Cole swap box.jpg
Cole Avenue Swap Box

The box on Mansfield has a bench to rest on while prusing the shelves, one of which can accept tall books.

Mansfield Box.jpg
Mansfield Avenue Bench & Box

The tour now heads south of the Queensway to our next swap box painted all white on Kingston Avenue!

1237 Kingston Ave
Swap Box at 1237 Kingston Ave.

The next most excellent box is on Bowhill Avenue.

Box on Bowhill Ave

Another Little Library  may be found at 97 Four Seasons Dr, not far from the Bowhill Avenue box. This one is not attached to the ground but is instead attached to the base of a pedestal table.

97 Four Seasons Dr
Little Library at 97 Four Seasons Dr

There’s also a box in Greenboro on Tammela Court. To get there I crossed the Rideau River at Hogs Back Falls and followed the route shown on the map. A more detailed description of this section of the ride can be found on this link ,  albeit in reverse. This sweet model opens from the top. It had been raining for a few days when I visited so a bit of water had gathered in the bottom. I’m sure it gets filled up with books in times of fair weather.

Tamella Court
Box on Tammela Court

The next few boxes to discover are in the Glebe. This one’s on Fourth Avenue, just east of Bronson. (I don’t reccomend riding along busy Bronson. Walk your bike along the sidewalk for a short block after crossing Bronson at the Madawaska/Fifth Avenue lights).

Little Library on Fourth Avenue

Next swap box is one block over and a bit east on Fifth Ave. This one cleverly recycles hidden Ikea hinges to avoid the door being left ajar.

Glebe Little Library
Little Library on Fifth Avenue

Our next box is just a few blocks south on Broadway Avenue.

Broadway Little Free Library

Up and over the Rideau Canal along the Bronson bike lane brings us to Old Ottawa South. This lovely clear coated box along Hopewell Avenue had a chalkboard leaning up against it onto which a poem by Gwendolyn MacEwen was transcribed. Don’t know if the chalkboard is always there, but it is a nice addition to this discovery of swap boxes.

Box & board along Hopewell Avenue

Next, a short side trip over the Rideau River to visit this robust Little Library on Pleasant Park Road. The most convenenient access to Alta Vista along this route is along the awful narrow Bank Street bridge over the Rideau River. Walking your bike along the sidewalk bridge is usually the safest option.

Box along Pleasant Park Road

Back on the north shore of the Rideau River,  our next stop brings us to 146 Sunnyside Avenue. Big footprint shaped concrete pavers invite passersby to peruse the shelves.

Just direct your feet to the Sunnyside of the street

A bit north east on Belgrave Road lives this fine box, cleverly modeled after the house infront of which it sits.

Box on Belgrave Road

Further east on Bower Street we find another fine box.

Bower St box

Close by on Drummond Street there sits this dynamic box-within-a-box.

Box on Drummond Street

There are two fine boxes over in Overbrook. Ride along the canal, cut through the Ottawa University campus, down Somerset Street East, and over the Rideau River across the fabulous Adawé pedestrian/bike bridge. Weave your way along a few residential streets to this fine Little Library on Queen Mary Street. There’s even a chair to relax in once you get there.

Little Library on Queen Mary St

Just a few blocks north there sits this generous little library on Ontario Street.

Ontario Street Little Library

I made my way over to the corner of Vachon and Dagmar in Vanier to discover this fine box full of books with a fine magnetic latch that keeps the door closed on windy days.

Little Library in Vanier, corner of Vachon & Dagmar

There’s another fun box in Vanier, at 355 Pauline Charron Place. To get there I rode up Père Blancs Avenue and cut through the grounds of their old monastry which is now a City of Ottawa park.

355 Pauline Charron Pl
Prenez un livre, laissez-en un! 355 Pauline Charron Pl.


Next stop is around the other side of Beechwood Cemetery where this Little Library is attached to the wall beside the entrance to the Manor Park Community Centre, just off Thornwood Road.

Little Library at the Manor Park Communtiy Centre

Next stop is in Sandy Hill infront of St Paul’s Eastern United Church on Cumberland Ave. To get there I rode over the St Patrick St bridge, through Lowertown, and up into Sandy Hill. At the time of my discovering this box the doors had unfortunately ripped off this generously proportioned unit. Hopefully they will be replaced.

Cumberland St
Box on Cumberland St

Time to retrace our route back to the Rideau Canal before riding south into the Glebe. This sweet is box located at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe.

Library Bibliothèque at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe
Library Bibliothèque at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe

The next two boxes are neighbours on Argyle which is accessible via the bi-directional bike lanes along O’Connor. The first, introduced in the summer of ’17, is this brightly painted number.

Box on Argyle

The second box on Argyle has a little clock in the gable, and the surrounding landscaping is beautiful. There are also garden chairs to sit on while contemplating a potential swap.

Box on Argyle
Box on Argyle

Next stop is in Centretown’s Dondonald Park.

Dundonald park
Swap box in Dundonald Park

Our next box is just a few blocks south on McLeod Street, which can be reached vis the bike lane along Percy Street.

577 McLeod
Fun Little Library infront of 577 McLeod

Another fine Little Library can be found on Arlington a few blocks west of Bronson. The Percy Street bike path gets you to Arlington. There are traffic lights to help get across busy Bronson.

430 Arlington
430 Arlington box with matching paint and roof tiles! Also a solar panel.

Last stop is the Mini Library, corner of Cambridge St N and Christie. This one takes taller books too.

Mini Library at Christie & Cambridge St N
Mini Library at Christie & Cambridge St N

Et voila!

Author: ottawavelo


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