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, August 2018: 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 .
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.
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.
Next it’s over to 125 Young St where sits this cute swap box.
A short one block loop gets you to this great swap box at 249 Loretta.
This next box on Melrose Avenue is a clever take on the ‘A-frame’.
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.
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.
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.
Route takes a slight deviation to visit a couple of boxes, starting with this great Little Library box on Kenora St.
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.
Over to this very beautifuly painted box on Evered Ave.
The next one is a super sweet little swap box on Cole Avenue.
The box on Mansfield has a bench to rest on while perusing the shelves, one of which can accept tall books.
The tour heads eastwardly to our next swap box painted all white on Kingston Avenue!
Next it’s westwardly along the Experimental Farm Pathway before exiting towards Sherman Drive. This brings us to a swap box at the corner of Sherman Drive and Navaho Drive. What makes this one special is the surrounding landscaping with a dedicated path leading up from the intersection to the box.
A westerly jaunt into the Leslie Park neighbourhood brings us to two more boxes. The first is at 30 Harrison St that cleverly uses the JUTIS frosted cabinet door from Ikea.
The next one at 32 Abingdon Dr is a similar design but with a more traditional styled hinged door.
Heading back the way we came, our next fine box sits at 33 Elvaston Ave.
The next most excellent box is on Bowhill Avenue.
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.
There are some boxes further south-east. 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. A slight detour over the Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge brings you to this proudly Canadian swap box on Cahill St.
Back over the pedestrian bridge, there’s this cute box in Greenboro on Tammela Court. 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.
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).
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.
Our next box is just a few blocks south on Broadway Avenue.
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.
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.
A short loop through the Alta Vista neighbourhood brings us to this beautiful box with glass bead roof tiles on Featherstone Drive.
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.
A bit north east on Belgrave Road lives this fine box, cleverly modeled after the house infront of which it sits.
One and a half blocks north at 75 Marlowe sits Mike’s Tiny Library. Super sweet!
Further east on Bower Street we find another fine box.
Close by on Drummond Street there sits this dynamic box-within-a-box.
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.
Just a few blocks north there sits this generous little library on Ontario Street.
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.
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.
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.
Rolling along the west bound Beechwood Avenue Bike lanes and then those along St Patrick St brings us towards our next box at 260 St Andrew St.
Next stop is in Sandy Hill infront of St Paul’s Eastern United Church on Cumberland Ave. At the time of my discovering this box the doors had unfortunately ripped off this generously proportioned unit. Hopefully they will be replaced.
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.
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.
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.
Next stop is in Centretown’s Dondonald Park.
Our next box is just a few blocks south on McLeod Street, which can be reached vis the bike lane along Percy Street.
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.
Last stop is the Mini Library, corner of Cambridge St N and Christie. This one takes taller books too.