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Community rallies around Vancouver senior whose tiny library was cut down

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Eighty-seven-year-old Gisela Filion has lived in Mount Pleasant for more than 30 years. As a gift to her longtime community, the Vancouver senior decided to donate a tiny library.

"She said, 'Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had a tiny library of my own?'" said Filion’s close friend and neighbour Carol Burman. "And I said, 'Why don’t you go for it?' And she said she was going to go for it, and she did."

Filion chose a location on public property near The Federal Store at the corner of 10th Avenue and Quebec Street, and decided to name the tiny library after the popular neighborhood gathering spot.

“She came by one day and pitched the idea, and we said, 'That sounds really cute,'" said Cole Friske, the pastry chef at local business.

“The Federal Store is all about community, so we were, of course, behind her.”

Burman checked with the city, and was told as long as they didn’t pour concrete, they could put the tiny library up beside the sidewalk.

Filion paid to have the colourful wooden box built, stocked it with books, and was on hand Monday when it was installed.

“She was delighted. It’s her legacy, she was so excited about this. She was just happy, happy, happy,” said Burman.

But Wednesday morning, residents found the tiny library had been cut down. It was on the sidewalk, the metal base gone, the books spread out around it near the sidewalk. Whoever vandalized it left a note that read: “Federal Store, put this on your own property.”

Someone cut down the little free library outside The Federal Store in Mount Pleasant just days after it went up. (Carol Burman)

Friske couldn’t believe it.

“I feel like we have a really good relationship with lots of the residents, all the residents. (It's) quite shocking,” he said, adding he has no idea who would want the library gone.

“If they were unhappy with the placement, they could email us, come to the shop, we would have been happy to find a compromise.”

Customer April Jordan was also stunned that someone would cut down the tiny library.

“It just a little box of books, you know. And that one’s really cute. I don’t know why you would want to remove it,” she said. “I just think that’s really rude, kind of an over reaction. Those little libraries are everywhere, and they're often right beside the sidewalk.”

Burman agonized over how to tell Filion that her prized library had been vandalized.

“I went last night to her apartment and I had to tell her, and it was heartbreaking, her response,” said Burman. “She was in shock. She was devastated, and we just shed a few tears together.”

Filion is mostly homebound, so area residents made her a poster with messages thanking her for donating the tiny library, and vowing to ensure it remains in the neighborhood.

“This poster – incredible,” said Burman. “She is going to be so touched. This is going to lift her spirits so high, and she deserves it, because she’s the kindest, most wonderful person.”

And her legacy will live on. There are plans to reinstall Gisela’s tiny library in front of The Federal Store.

“We have permission from the gentleman that owns the building that we will put the tiny library around the front,” said Burman. “Once I explained it’s going to be near the tree at the front beside the other garden, and that people will be right there where the farmers market is going to be in the summer, it’s a lot of traffic, she was very excited about it. So she is back on board.”

Jordan is glad it will have a home in Mount Pleasant.

“I go to those little libraries wherever I see them, and I’m here all the time, so I’m happy about that,” she said.

When asked if she will use it, the avid reader replied, “Absolutely.”     

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