Eniwa In-Store Library Project

Books and Community Development

Eniwa Public Library

Many volunteers meet at Eniwa Public Library, and small libraries are being created all around town.
Words by Ishida Mie
Photographs by Ida Yukitaka
Translation by Xene Inc.

The power of books to connect people

“Eniwa In-Store Library Project” started in 2013. Currently, 47 stores and locations around town such as beauty shops, banks, hospitals, cafés, restaurants, and bakeries are registered as in-store libraries and each manager or shop owner serves as the librarian.
The librarians are able to show their skill by how they line up the books, and what kind of books they display. Many also hold book events.

Ms. Kurouji Yuko, a member of the board of education who has been involved since preparations for the establishment of the Eniwa Public Library, spoke to us.
She explains, “The In-Store Library Project was born during a workshop with the local residents. Community development through reading programs by volunteers has been promoted in Eniwa. Participants of the workshop told me that they liked the library but were too busy to visit. And even though they couldn’t visit the library, they were still eager to participate however they could from their workplaces.”

Ms. Kurouji and others thought about it. What library activities could be performed outside a library?
As she looked into it, she learned about the Obuse In-Store Library Project in Obuse Town, Nagano Prefecture. Immediately she went to Nagano, talked with the person in charge, gained consent to do the same in Eniwa, and then started the project. The project provides the residents with more opportunities to read books, promotes interaction between customers, and contributes to the development of Eniwa as a town of books.

Many picture books and books on travel are on the shelf at a café.

The corner of an office at an IT company converted into bookshelves

Another project carried out in the library is Open to Midnight.
At this annual event, the library is open until 12:00 a.m. to hold concerts, readings, and a picture book course for adults. “Hon de Tomokatsu” is also held for young people so they can make friends by talking about their favorite books that they bring. This project first started as “Hon de Koikatsu”

“We were excited to start a project so that people would fall in love through discussions on book topics and then have weddings in the library’s garden, but Open to Midnight isn’t enough to create love. Books enable people to make friends regardless of gender, so we changed it to Tomokatsu. Books have the power to connect people. We want to make the best use of the power of books for community development.”

Ms. Kurouji Yuko

Why could it become a town of books?

Eniwa City has many book related projects such as Bookstart which gives a free picture book to a baby, and a home delivery book service for people unable to visit the library.
Ms. Kurouji was once asked, “Why can Eniwa City’s library do so many things?”
Indeed, over 40 stores and companies participate in the In-Store Library Project and more than 400 volunteers are involved in activities at the library and at the school libraries. Ms. Kurouji asked the volunteers this question, and the answer was simple.
“We were eagerly looking forward to having a library.”

The establishment of the Eniwa City library was late in coming. The library project began in earnest in 1989. The library’s preparation office, where Ms. Kurouji was also assigned, was established by the Board of Education. Eniwa City was the only city which did not have a public library among all the cities in Hokkaido at that time. There was much discussion with the residents during the preparatory stage.

“This long-awaited library was established by listening to the opinions of citizens. It opened on July 30, 1992, and in three days approx. 50,000 books were emptied from the bookshelves. When we handed books to people, they were all very happy and said, ‘thank you.”

Ms. Kurouji heard this opinion from one citizen.
“I’m old and my life is going to end soon, so I wanted to do something for kids. They asked if I would read books at the library. I’m so happy about it. Libraries should be places like this.”

Libraries are more than just a place to line up books. The wishes and hopes of many people can be found behind the books. A city of books is a place where people can believe in the great power of books.

Eniwa Public Library
5-10-2, Meguminonishi, Eniwa-shi, Hokkaido, Japan
Tel.: 0123-37-2181
From Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 20:00
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10:00 to 18:00
Closed on Mondays


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