Ottawa Bike Tour of Swap Boxes and Little Free Libraries

As the Coronavirus has imposed restrictions on most forms of exercise biking remains a good option to get outside for some fresh air and physical activity. Another good way to pass the time is reading! Swap boxes and little free libraries are great for such occasions. Here’s how they work: usually streetside, passersby are enticed to open them up. If something inside strikes their fancy they can take it or exchange it with something else. Almost all of the boxes on this tour happen to be specific to the exchange of books, but they all work on the same principle.

This tour has evolved over time, as suggested by the photos taken throughout the year. Due to the drastic changes brought on by the virus I decided to revisit all the boxes on the tour to check which ones are still sharing.  Those that are I’ve identified with a green marker on the map.  The ones that are closed until further notice I’ve identified with white markers and taken off the route. 

We were inspired to put up a swap box in front of our place after discovering a number of others around town that had been created by the late street artist Elmaks. There is also an online group you can register your book swap box called Little Free Libraries. Here’s an article in the Kitchissippi Times on some of those local little libraries.

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First stop – Cambridge St North, just north of the Chinatown Arch!

Swap Box on Cambridge St N

Down Nanny Goat Cliff, at the corner of Preston and Elm, there sits the cleverly converted newspaper box Book Exchange. 

Preston & Elm book exchange
Preston & Elm book exchange

Next it’s over to this great swap box at 249 Loretta Avenue.

249 Loretta
Loretta Avenue

A couple of blocks west at the corner of Beech Street and Bayswater Avenue you can’t miss this colourful Little Free Library/Boîte à livres.

Double compartment little library at Beech&Bayswater

 A bit further down Bayswater, just north of Sherwood Drive, you will find this box with Tudor detailing, complementing the same style of the house in the background. There are mini solar panels at the base of the box and a string of red lights along the top so I’m guessing nightime visitors get an extra treat!

Box on Bayswater

A few blocks away and up a hill you will find this very well constructed box.

Wonderful Little Free Library on Gwynne Ave.

Back to the north side the Queensway along Fairmount, then a couple of blocks west along Gladstone gets you to this next box on Melrose Avenue with a clever take on the ‘A-frame’.

a-frame
A-Frame Box on Melrose Avenue

Heading a few blocks north into Hintonburg brings you to this pair of book boxes at 50 Ladoucer. 

50 Ladoucer 2
50 Ladoucer

A bit further west in Hintonburg you will find a box near the corner of Oxford & Pinehurst. This one has quite a history.  In the Fall of 2016 someone complained about it’s original sprawling bungalow styling 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 it got a reprieve. They then replaced it with a more compact design, which has since been replaced with the one that is there now.

Oxford St swap box

Across the transitway there’s this fine tall box on Northwestern Avenue.

219 Northwestern
Box infront of 219 Northwestern Ave

Our next stop is at the Corner of Carleton and Gould streets. A sign in the windowq proudly states, ‘Made by Quinn’. Well done Quinn!

Carleton & Gould
Quinn’s box at the corner of Carleton & Gould St’s

We discover our next swap box just south of Wellington on Mayfair, where 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

A few blocks south brings us to this little library at 436 Mayfair.

Box on Mayfair

Our route goes another couple of blocks east great Little Library box on Kenora St.

kenora-st
Kenora St. box

UPDATE – 2018: The Harmer St pedestrian bridge over the Queensway is being replaced and won’t be ready for another 2 years, so the present route as per the above map, goes along the Holland Avenue detour bike lanes.

At our next stop sits this generous two legged box outside the St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church. The little plaque on the front says it was made by the youth of the church.

St Stephen’s Church little library

A few blocks south you will find this great colourful box Hamilton Avenue South.

Wonderful box at 405 Hamilton Ave S

Right aronud the corner sits this lovely one on Inglewood Place.

Inglewood Place

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.

UPDATE – Fall, 2018: A super cute little box for little swapable items has been attached to the side of the big box!

Swap boxes at 125 Ruskin

Over to Island Park Drive where this super sweet ‘petit bibliotheque’ has mini toad-stools for little ones to rest upon.

Boxes at the corner of Brennan and Iona

Over to this very beautifuly painted box on Evered Ave.

531 Evered Ave
Box on Evered Ave

A mere couple of blocks west brings you to this stragetically placed box on Kenwood near Edison.

Edison & Kenwood
Box at near the corner of Edison & Kenwood

UPDATE: March 2020 The next box on the tour was a super sweet little swap box on Cole Avenue. – Sadly it’s gone. It was a favourite so I’m leaving a photo up in memory of all the joy it provided.

Cole swap box.jpg
Cole Avenue Swap Box

This fabulous box on Roosevelt Avenue has a dentil detailed gable trim and cedar shingle panelling!

Great box at 571 Roosevelt

Just a few blocks south/west brings us to this elegantly designed box. It’s got a corrugated pitched roof, a clear plexiglass door sans casing, and some nicely detailed colour coordinating.

664 Highland Ave
Nicely detailed box at 664 Highland Ave

The box on Mansfield has a bench to rest on while perusing the shelves. One shelf accepts exceptionally tall books.

Mansfield Box.jpg
Mansfield Avenue Bench & Box

A slight detour south to the Glabar Park neighbourhood brings you to this double-duty Little Library on Lenester Avenue. The lower box is labelled ‘Young Readers’. The upper box has stained glass windows!

TWO box unit on Lenester

Next you can find this fine book box on Midway Ave near Ancaster. 

Box at Midway and Ancaster

A quick jaunt down Woodland Avenue brings you to this most excellent box.

Box on Woodland Ave

Based on similarites in design with the previous two boxes, I have a sneaking suspicion the next one on Apple Orchard Park came from the same designer.

New Orchard Park
Book box at New Orchard Park

Heading even further west, mostly along the Ottawa River Pathway, gets us to the Bayshore Park Community Garden & Oven which also has this big multi-layered swap box. The purple line on the above map shows a winter route, as the Ottawa River Pathway is not cleared. A more detailed description of this route can be found by clicking here.

Swap box at the Bayshore Park Community Garden & Oven

Circling south mostly along bike paths into the Leslie Park neighbourhood brings us to two more boxes. The first is at 32 Abingdon Dr with a traditional styled hinged door. Unfortunately I cannot recommend a safe winter route to this box from the Bayshore Park box as most of the bike paths linking the two aren’t cleared.

32 Abingdon Dr
32 Abingdon Dr

The second is at 30 Harrison St that cleverly uses the JUTIS frosted cabinet door from Ikea.

30 Harrison St
30 Harrison St

Next is this box at 2423 Ryan Dr with a bench to relax and peruse the offerings!

2423 Ryan Dr
Hefty swap box at 2423 Ryan Dr

Our tour heads east to this swap box at the corner of Sherman and Navaho Drive which has a little path leading up from the intersection.

Navaho and Sherman
Box at Navaho and Sherman

Once again back onto The Experimental Farm Pathway before detouring onto this box painted all white on Kingston Avenue!

1237 Kingston Ave
Swap Box at 1237 Kingston Ave.

UPDATE June 2020 – This next box at the corner of  Trillium Drive and Wallford Way is closed with a note suggesting downloading books from Amazon. I will put it back on the route when and if it re-opens.

Trillium & Wallford
Trillium Drive and Wallford Way

The next most excellent box is on Bowhill Avenue.

bowhill
Box on Bowhill Ave

There’s a box further south-east on Cahill St. To get there I crossed the Rideau River at Hogs Back Falls and followed the route shown on the map. 

1035 Cahill
1035 Cahill St

Further west along Uplands Drive you will find this great box called the Oak Tree Free Library.

Free Library on Uplands Drive

The next few boxes to discover are in the Glebe. This one’s on Fourth Avenue, just east of Bronson. 

4th-ave
Little Library on Fourth Avenue

This box is on Fifth Avenu.

Box on Fifth Avenue at Chrysler St.

This next box over on Thornton has great playful proportions!

27 Thorton

Half way down the block on the opposite side of Thornton you will discover this great Book Sharing Zone box.

12 Thornton Ave

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

hopewell-box
Broadway Little Free Library

Up and over the Rideau Canal along the Bronson bike lane brings us to Old Ottawa South. After cutting through Old Ottawa South through Brewer Park and an assortment of residential streets there is 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-on-broadway
Box along Pleasant Park Road

One block south on Mountbatten Avenue you will find this wonderfully colourful box.

Box on Mountbatten Avenue

A short loop through the Alta Vista neighbourhood first brings us to this beautiful box with glass bead roof tiles on Featherstone Drive. 

1621 Featherstone Dr
Box on Featherstone Drive

Our next stop on our Alta Vista loop brings us to this sweet one at 1647 Pullen Ave. Tons of TLC has been put into the painting details. gotta go see it to believe it.

1647 Pullen
Pretty box at 1647 Pullen

A few blocks west brings you’ll find this Little Library on Devon St with a mini-bike weathervane keeping it company! UPDATE March 2020 – The post is still there but the box is gone. I’ll add it back to the route if it ever re-appears.

1624-devon
1624 Devon St

A little bit further north-west gets us to this swap box on Bloor Ave with quite an impressive base support structure. UPDATE March 2020 – A note on this box says it has been temporarily closed. It will include it on the route once I notice it’s open once again.

473 Bloor
Blue & black box on Bloor

Continuing on our loop through Alta Vista brings us to this cleverly designed mobile unit on Knox Crescent.

Mobile box at 217 Knox Crescent

Head back on over to the north shore of the Rideau River and follow the path along to the river to Belmont Drive where you will find this super sweet box.

Box on Belmont near the Rideau River

A couple of blocks over you will see this great little library at 146 Sunnyside Avenue. Big footprint shaped concrete pavers invite passersby to peruse the shelves.

sunnyside-box
Just direct your feet to the Sunnyside of the street

This nicely crafted box is located a bit further north on Glencairn Avenue.

Well crafted box on Glencairn Avenue

Our next great box can be found just around the corner on Riverdale Ave. This one also has a generous concrete bench infront of it.

Box on Riverdale Ave

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

belgrave-box
Box on Belgrave Road

One and a half blocks north at 75 Marlowe sits Mike’s Tiny Library. Super sweet!

75 Marlowe
Mike’s Tiny Library

Further east on Bower Street we find another fine box.

bower-box
Bower St box

Nary a block over is this great box on Mutchmor Road.

Box on Mutchmor (can’t ask for Mutchmor than that!)

Close by on Merritt Ave you will find this great little library.

Little Library on Merritt Ave

A couple of blocks north on Drummond Street there sits this dynamic box-within-a-box.

drummond-box
Box on Drummond Street

Just a couple of blocks north you can find this fine box on Glanora Street.

Glanora St swap box

Ride north along the Rideau Canal pathway then cut through the Ottawa U campus, then head east through the Sandy Hill neighbourhood along Wilbrod which is a one way street with a bike lane. Head one block north on Cobourg St where you will find this great box near the north/east corner of Stewart. It has hi-vs stickers on it’s legs, and a fine stepping stone to allow smaller readers to peruse the titles.

Swap box on Stewart St near Cobourg St

There are two fine boxes over in Overbrook. Cross the Rideau River across the fabulous Adawé pedestrian/bike bridge. To to the bridge head west along the Stewart St bike lane for one block then turn left onto Augusta Street. Augusta ends at Wilbrod but there’s a little paved path that takes you through from Wilbrod to Laurier. Cross Laurier and down the hill along Golbourn to Somerset. The Adawé bridge is at the eastern end of Somerset.  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.

IMG_7047
Little Library on Queen Mary St

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

IMG_7048.JPG
Ontario Street Little Library

Heading further east for quite a spell, one finds this hearty box at 20 Appleford St in the Cardinal Heights neighbourhood. These social distancing rabbits were ahead of me last time I visited.

Little Library at 20 Appleford St

Heading back west you will discover this fantastic box on Roanoke Street!

‘Take a Book-Leave a Book’ on Roanoke St!

 

Next, over in Vanier there is this colourful box at 355 Pauline Charron Place.

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

Back to the bike path along St Laurent, head north then left on the bike path along Hemlock Road which gets you to this fine little library.

Little Library along Hemlock Road

Next is this Little Library at Vachon & Dagmar.

Vachon
Little Library in Vanier, corner of Vachon & Dagmar

Cross the river over the St Patrick Street bridge towards this bright red box at the end of Old St Patrick St. in Lowertown.

Bright red box on Old St Patrick St

A couple of blocks north is our next box at  260 St Andrew St.

260 St Andrew St
Box amongst flowers 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.

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.

Argyle
Box on Argyle

The second box on Argyle has a little clock in the gable (UPDATE March 2020 – Sadly the little clock is gone but the box remains!). The surrounding landscaping is beautiful. There are also garden chairs to sit on while contemplating a potential swap.

Box on Argyle
Box on Argyle

Our next box is further west on McLeod 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. UPDATE March 2020 – A note on this box says it has been temporarily closed. It will include it on the route once I notice it’s open once again.

There is a solar panel powering a light that turns on once you open the door to the box when it’s dark out. TRÈS cool!

Box at 430 Arlington during the day….and at night!

A short detour west gets you to this box at 23 Balsam St.

Books box at 23 Balsam St

Our final stop is this 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!

I’ve been adding new boxes throughout a number of years as they are installed. If I’ve missed any please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it on the route.