Skip to content

Esther O’Donnell – The Piwakawaka Little Library

I started the Piwakawaka Little Library when I was in year 9 after seeing similar ones across my neighbourhood. I noticed that most were in a bad condition, and weren’t taken care of, which made me think ‘what if things were different?’. It was this very mindset which led to the establishment of The Piwakawaka Little Library, which was named after my favourite bird. With the support of my uncle who is an industrial designer, what was once a few hasty sketches in a notebook quickly became reality with his help. When designing my library, I took care to make sure all the materials used were sustainable; the door is made from recycled perspex, which was then engraved using my uncle’s laser etcher. It’s probably one of the best decisions I made throughout the design process and I think it really sets my library apart from others – it’s truly unmissable. I love how in certain light the library looks as though it’s glowing, and I find it very fitting – this enigmatic ‘glow’ of books was what led to the establishment of the library. 

In the time since then, I’ve found that the most important aspect of being a Little Librarian is the curation of books. I’m constantly sourcing new ones, and will frequently raid my own bookshelf if the library is looking bare. I’m also not afraid to throw away books that are not being read or are in bad condition – I want the community to know that my library will always be a reliable source for quality books. The children’s section that I have established is also somewhat of an anomaly – I’ve noticed that they are somewhat hard to come by elsewhere, so it was a real essential that this was included in my library.

I find the whole concept of goodwill that little libraries are built on so aspirational, and the first question I’m always asked when I introduce others to the idea is ‘are the books all really free?’ While this may seem like a risk to others, I have never once in the four years of my time managing a little library seen this exploited. In fact, so much good has come out of my library – one example is on Christmas Eve about 18 months ago the library was looking little empty, and I thought to myself ‘I should really grab rummage around for some books and pop them in there’ – but someone else beat me to it, filling the library with brand new children’s books. And the best bit is that when something like this happens, you know that it’s only the tip of the iceberg, and there could be 10 other instances of people going out of their way to be a part of the little library community that I haven’t even witnessed. It’s just this amazing feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself, and that at the end of the day, while this wouldn’t have been possible if a little 12 year old didn’t dream it up, it’s not my library – it belongs to this incredible  community that we are all a part of.

About the author

Esther O’Donnell is currently a year 12 student at Western Springs College, as well as a debater, student librarian and curator of the Piwakawaka Little Library. More information about her library can be found at the following website:

Back To Top