The free suburban library becomes the beating heart of the locked streets of Chelsea, Victoria


A thousand good things happened to Australians during these terrible closures.

This free local bookstore is one of them.

The Cooper family built it a few years before the pandemic hit Catherine Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare that takes people to and from shops, the pub, the post office and the beach.

Adam and his wife Kelly agreed it would be a good thing to do for their two children, who helped paint it in the cheerful colors of their home.

Stacking books there for the first time, Kelly hoped the concept would be popular.

Adam Cooper thought that the creation of the library would be a good thing for his children to do.(



Despite his natural optimism, Adam assumed that the three shelves and the plexiglass door would attract the attention of the vandals.

I’ll give it two weeks, he thought, before someone walks past, throws or trashes it.

Adam, who is a journalist, is happy to report that his premonition was misplaced – the library has never been touched by a nasty hand.

“It has stood the test of time,” he says.

The people of Bayside Chelsea began to love the library. It’s always been stacked with bestsellers, classics and everything in between.

“There was always a John Grisham, always a Clive Cussler. And then there was often a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Once a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray appeared.

Although he insists he was not a literary snob.

“Someone left a copy of Odysseus [by James Joyce] in there. Not that I’ve ever read Ulysses, it’s just his size that puts me off, “he says.

The library, a boon for older and prolific readers

During the first lockdowns of 2020, the library ended up meaning something more than the stories it helped circulate.

“People would use it as an outlet or to chat,” says Adam. “A lot of people would leave books enough to leave bags of books under the carport if they thought we were running out of stock.

“I’ve always enjoyed social interaction. People walk right past it. I would just say ‘Hello’ and you’d chat a bit. A lot of people were asking where we got the idea from and that sort of thing. a good topic of discussion. “

Hand sanitizer can be found at the top of a free bookcase, with an inscription on the cabinet saying "take one now, leave one later"
The free library was a boon for avid book readers and the elderly.(



Children were among the locals who enjoyed visiting the library and some of them helped decorate it.

Taking their cuteness a step further, the Cooper’s began to share other things, like parsley and rosemary.

“We noticed that people would do the same,” says Adam. “Once an old lady left a thank you note. Another time someone left a jar of fruit. When it was lockdown, we were all looking for things to do.

“Especially the elderly. There are quite a few elderly people in Chelsea. We received a lot of thanks during that time – when the elderly couldn’t have visitors and the public libraries were closed.

“One woman said it was a godsend for her because she was a prolific reader.”

The coopers advance but the library continues to function

Earlier this year, Adam was at a party when a woman he was talking to realized he was the owner of the local library.

“She got really emotional,” says Adam.

Some people in the suburbs got very worried when a sign for sale appeared at the Cooper house a few months ago.

Adam and Kelly had decided it was time to move out.

What would happen to the library, which was now so well established that it had its own popular Facebook page?

Fortunately, the new owners had a daughter who loved books.

A statement came out that the library remained open.

The Cooper’s are gone now, but they won’t soon forget the library.

It was a good idea after all.

“I just liked going out and checking out what was there,” Adam said.

“I also found some good books. We liked sitting in the garden on summer nights, when you had dinner outside and digging around and grabbing a cricket shot or whatever.

He plans to build another in front of their new home, although he suspects it just won’t be the same.

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