Think Differently Book Exchange

A simple but well-loved community amenity: books chilling in a fridge on a vacant site.

A community project from the get-go

A simple thing – a large, catering fridge set back from a prominent corner site on the edge of the city in Christchurch full of books. Full of books and available for use, 24 hours, the book fridge past became a Christchurch post-quake icon.

The Think Differently book exchange was suggested by librarian Sarah Gallagher in winter of 2011 in reponse to lack of a central city libaray due to the earthquakes. Together with Sarah, Gap Filler worked to develop the concept, locate a site and realise the project.

In July 2011, we invited people to come and stock the fridge with books that made them think differently about something (hence the name). We gathered on the site, shared food and filled the fridge. 

Since then, the fridge gets frequent uses daily, providing a simple community service. We originally planned on this being a 3-month project. in 2021 the book exchange will celebrate its 10th birthday!


Worth the bumpy ride

The book exchange has been through some ups and downs in its time. A free, all-hours project on a vacant site can’t be immune from incidents. It has had all of its books stolen a couple of times, been pushed over, attracted a couple of sofas and dumped items, had it’s glass windowns smashed (and then replaced with acryclic) and been tagged a few times. But all these incidents over the 9 years it has been in existence seem rather minimal in the bigger picture predominantly because of just how well-used and well-loved this simple amenity has been for this part of the city. 

New custodians – Piko Wholefoods

In 2019, the land that the book exchange it sited on was sold and the new owners, Piko Wholefoods –  who are just across the road – agreed to take on the custodianship of the book fridge. Piko will build on the site in the coming years and aspire to include a permanent book exchange of sorts inside their new building in a nod to the post-quake history of the site.

Who, what, where, when

Date: July 2011 – 2019 (Project has had new custodians since 2019)

Locations:  Cnr Kilmore and Barbadoes Streets, ChCh

Client/Funder: Christchurch City Council, Creative Communities (via CNZ)

Key people: Sarah Gallagher

Values: Experimentation, Resourcefulness

Support/Sponsors: Sign Displays, Dulux

Since the book exchange opened In July 2011, it’s been a much-used resource and meeting place for local residents. It’s rare to pass by and not see someone browsing among the volumes, and to hear murmurs of delight as people find a new title or re-discover an old favourite on the shelves.

Ruth Gardner

Local resident & Avon Loop Planning Association Chair