By Tom Heath
A group of runners in Leeds has been combining getting fit with helping to restock free community libraries across the city.
Goodgym Leeds has been involved in a series of “community missions” focused on the Leeds Little Free Libraries but also checking on and helping local residents, litter picking or even planting bulb gardens.
Gemma Bridge, an area activator at GoodGym Leeds, said: “Leeds GoodGym launched just over a year ago and since then Leeds members have done over 500 community missions.”
A collaboration with the Leeds Little Free Libraries (LLFL) focused on cleaning and restocking the 72 existing libraries in the Leeds area and has become a popular fixture in the schedule.
Jane Clifford, administrator for LLFL, said: “We first worked with GoodGym Leeds in March.
“We had another email from Gemma Bridge in September, and the runners went out again to have a clean and swap books between libraries in North Leeds.”
Local residents have fully embraced the little libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jane said: “They’ve become a real asset to each community, especially during lockdown.”
Some libraries also have notebooks in which users make note of what books they have borrowed and even mini-reviews or just positive messages.
Brittany Barclay, a resident in the Headingley area, said: “I think it’s a great idea. I love the fact that you can write a message that someone else will read in the future.
“It does a great job at bringing the community together.”
The LLFL scheme was the brainchild of the late Carry Franklin, who after seeing a similar library in London, set up the first free library in Headingley, on Alma Road.
Carry sadly passed away in June 2019, but her vision and legacy are continued with the programme which has spread out throughout Leeds.
Jane Clifford said: “The vision was to spread the love of books. Spread the love of art. Spread the love of community.”
The fact that each library has a whole new roster of books within a few weeks certainly indicates they’re succeeding in achieving that.
Going forward, GoodGym Leeds will be continuing to check on the libraries amongst other events they have planned.
Gemma Bridge said: “We aim to organise about two to three community missions every week. We still have a few Leeds Little Free libraries to check, and we are also returning to Left Bank community centre to help with their garden.”
To learn more about the GoodGym Community programmes, visit the Leeds page here: https://www.goodgym.org/my/happenings
In terms of the Leeds Little Free Libraries, there is an interactive online map which helps you find your nearest LLFL.
There is also a keen focus on the designs of the libraries, and you can see each and every library on the @leedslittlefreelibrary Instagram page.