Miss spending time at your local library? Tune in to the live feed for the Bird Library, a popular hangout spot for sparrows, starlings, and other feathered friends.
Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina created the Bird Library five years ago in their Charlottesville, Virginia backyard, inspired by a Norwegian café-themed bird feeder that went viral the year before. The library features handmade, bird-sized bookshelves and a circulation desk; Flowers and Cwalina keep the space well-stocked with birdseed for avian guests to snack on.
They also mix things up with seasonal decorations for holidays like New Year’s Eve as well as library-specific observances like National Library Week—both Flowers and Cwalina have arts degrees, which they’ve put to good use creating a beautiful ambience for the birds. In 2018, they rebuilt the Bird Library to have more capacity, and looking ahead, they’re hoping to share building plans that other birdwatchers and library lovers can use in their own communities. They’re also considering adding computer stations to the current space. “Our patrons have expressed an interest in tweeting,” Flowers told I Love Libraries.
In addition to their growing social media following, the birds have also been a big hit at Johnson Elementary School, where Flowers works as a media specialist. She installed a smaller version of the space just outside the school’s library so that students can observe the birds in person as part of their learning. “We learn about the characteristics of a bird, study different species of birds, practice using binoculars and using quiet voices, and try to identify the birds around our school,” she explained. “It’s a lesson in being calm, quiet, and patient, for both the student and the teacher!”
While the kids have enjoyed getting to know the Bird Library’s eccentric cohort of regulars, Flowers is glad to see that her students haven’t picked up any bad library habits from the birds. “The patrons at the Bird Library are terrible guests! They make a mess with the birdseed, poop on the floor, and fight with each other,” she shared. “My elementary school library patrons are much better-behaved.”
In addition to her many responsibilities at Johnson Elementary and the Bird Library, Flowers is also a cofounder of Books on Bikes, a team of seven teachers and librarians who deliver free books to children in local public housing. “Our mission is to make sure our students continue to read during the summer when school is closed. While the program continues to be a way to keep our students reading, it has also become a very effective way to build relationships with our students that continues into the school year,” she shared. “We have continued our program during the pandemic by safely bringing books to students’ homes through contactless delivery.”
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