Families come together to create community library in name of book-loving mum who died at just 41

Friends of a community activist and mum-of-two who died of brain cancer have joined together to create a little library in her memory.

Lou’s Little Library, in Pathfield Road, Streatham, will be home to around 40 books at a time for local people to borrow and donate to.

It also has a “sharing table” where local people can donate and share produce such as herbs or plant cuttings.

Louise Simonsen died last year aged just 41 – nine months after being diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour.

Fifteen minutes before she died, Louise, was able to marry her partner, Shaff Prabatani.

Shaff and their daughters, Hannah, eight, and Alia, 10, wanted a living memorial to Lou, who was a prolific reader and committed to helping her community, so they felt a small lending library would be just her style.

Lou’s Little Library was officially opened on Saturday, October 17 by Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy as part of the new Streatham Literature Festival, which has been taking place this month.

Bell gave the first book to the library – Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace by Bana Alabed. Bell invited Lou’s daughter, Alia, to place the book into the library.

Lou, who managed a homeless project and mobilised many people to do collections for refugees, would read a book a week. Even as she was dying, and nearly blind, Lou would still try to read with her Kindle.

Shaff Prabatani with Louise Simonsen

Hannah and Alia came up with design ideas for the library and wanted a Scandinavian style – in keeping with their mum’s Danish roots.

They took their ideas to Charlie Mitchell and his Streatham-based company Treesaurus, which creates bespoke timber designs.

Treesaurus came up with three concepts, and Shaff got 100 people involved in choosing the design.

Streatham printers Good Empire produced a sign, and Pathfield Nursery next door funded the project.

Local designer Kate Roncoroni has made special Lou’s Little Library bookmarks, which were available at the unveiling.

Shaff also plans to give them out to all the children at his daughters’ school and Pathfield Nursery.

Mr Prabatani, a youth and community consultant who has lived in Streatham for more than 20 years, said:  “Lou always said that reading transported her to another world – and that was still the same, even when she was at her sickest.

“She wanted everyone to read more and our daughters love it, too – our house is stuffed full of books.

“A little library is the perfect way to celebrate Lou and her life.

Lou’s Little Library

“We hope Lou’s Little Library will be a living memorial to her – and, most importantly, inspire more people to pick up a book and experience the magic of reading.”

Mr Prabatani wants families living in the area to help fill the library. He said: “We’d love the books that people treasure – the ones you just can’t wait for someone else to read and enjoy as well,” he said. “And please leave a message inside to share with whoever is lucky enough to get your book next.

“I’m so grateful to all the amazing people who gave up time to make Lou’s Little Library possible. I know Lou would be really proud to see how everyone has come together to make it happen.”

Pictured top: Shaff Prabatani and the couple’s daughters. Hannah, eight and Alia, 10, with Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy


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