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Vandalism leads to mouldy books in Chamberlains

By Chris Lewis | April 22, 2021

Some books in CBS are destined for the fire after a recent act of vandalism.

Little Free Libraries have become a popular trend in the province, with more and more popping up in several municipalities over the last year or so.

The little libraries are small structures usually found in parks or other common places. Inside, hidden from the elements, people can drop off old books they own, or take new ones home.

In CBS, there are little free libraries along Topsail Pond and Manuels River in Conception Bay South, as well as one in Chamberlains Park. The latter of those three was recently the subject of some vandalism, which will result in the books being used as fuel for a fire.

Stephanie Gavell is a member of the Chamberlains Park Action Committee, the governing group for the park, as well as being a part of the CBS Parks Commission.

She is one of the many people who keeps a close eye on the park on a daily basis. Despite all the different eyes on the park though, those responsible for recent acts of vandalism remain unidentified.

Gavell said a young couple had been walking through the park and came upon several books floating in a stream that runs along the park – someone had removed all the books from the little free library and tossed them into the water.

Gavell said the books were ruined by the time they were discovered.

“By the time I got there, they had laid them all out on the benches to dry,” she said. “But, it’s unlikely we’ll save any of them, because you’d have to turn the pages every day to try and dry them out and stop them from getting mouldy.”

Now, Gavell has all the damaged books at home with her and is attempting to continue drying them out. She said it is not looking good, though.

“I think we’re going to have to burn them,” she said. “It’s really too bad. Some of these young kids, they put their all into doing these projects and this is the kind of smack in the face they get from others. I wish there was some way we could catch them and then make them do a project in the park. Then, they wouldn’t be so quick to destroy other stuff that other people have done.”

Gavell said the park has a large group of people who are passionate about it, and that these park watchdogs are not pleased to see this happen. She also noted that it is actually the second time their little free library has faced vandalism troubles.

The first time, the vandalism looked quite similar: books had been left in the water for long periods of time. Even after drying them out the books were useless and smelled of mould. Those books, too, had to be burned.

“You’re never going to get them back to what they were before,” Gavell said.

Still, Gavell is confident this does not mean the end of the free little library in Chamberlains, speaking to the high level of success it has had thus far.

After the first episode of vandalism, Gavell said it did not take long for people to swing by with more books to fill it up. Now, she hopes to see the same thing happen again, with perhaps a little boost in the number of park watchdogs keeping an eye on things.

“Once the work terms start up again – probably in July – there will be people at the park every single day,” she said. “It’s better to have a presence there. I go down three times a week and I know others go down after supper almost every day. There’s always someone there, and the public are really good about letting us know when things like this happen. I think, going forward, we’re just going to have to put up with whatever happens and keep moving.”

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