Little Free Library can help put a library on your corner

I happened upon this mini-library in my neighborhood and am so impressed with the movement that Little Free Library has started that I am getting one together for our street. The concept is simple: put a charming box full of books in a public place, encourage people to share them and to contribute their own.

From their FAQ:

If this were just about providing free books on a shelf, the whole idea might disappear after a few months. There is something about the Little Library itself that people seem to know carries a lot more meaning. Maybe they know that this isn't just a matter of advertising or distributing products. The unique, personal touch seems to matter, as does the understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books. Leaving notes or bookmarks, having one-of-a-kind artwork on the Library or constantly re-stocking it with different and interesting books can make all the difference.

Little Free Library sells pre-made mini-libraries or will show you how to build your own.

Check out a couple of my favorites from around the country:

Here's a Google Map with many of the libraries on it. Support Little Free Library if you can!


    1. I was noticing that myself. And also there are quite a few in the Twin Cities MN. Go upper Midwest!

    2.  The Little Free Libraries started in Madison. Just yesterday, I discovered a new one in my neighborhood (!) with a perfect book for me – Empire of Dirt – and when I finish it, I’m gonna return it. I love my neighborhood!!

  1. Oh, man. I wish we could have this in my neighborhood, and there are enough hipsters here to make it work, but there are too many crackheads that would take the books and use them for toilet paper. As I write this, I realize how terrible that sounds. 

      1.  Keeping a roll of bags for picking up dog poo would be a nice service, too.  If I can get one of these things started up I’ll probably do that myself.

    1. Crackheads don’t use books for toilet paper. It’s totally not like they see a book and say “Hey, there’s some toilet paper.” 

  2. I find the lack of climate control disturbing.  I’d be tempted to install a compartment for holding silica gel, at a bare minimum.

    1. I respectfully disagree: Treating these books like sacred objects will deter them from being read. Books are amazing objects, but they’re just that: Objects. The words are what matters, not the paper. 

      You may find this enlightening, even if you disagree with it: I Can’t Believe You’re Throwing Out Books

      1. I respectfully disagree: Trying to keep the books from being warped by humidity and consumed by mildew isn’t treating them like sacred objects. It’s merely recognizing their perishable nature and attempting to prolong their usefulness as books. If “the words are what matters,” then it would be nice to be able to read them without the book falling apart in your hands.

        If those little free library things are intended to be book disposal units and not a point for book distribution then fine, let them rot.

    2. Does silica gel need a compartment? The little pouches I get with my beef jerky don’t seem to mind being mixed up with the snack product.

  3. I just saw one of these for the first time yesterday when I was driving around Atlanta – thought it was cool and then here it is…  Great idea!

  4. Sweet.

    Only one drawback, and it’s one that will make people mad, but hopefully not mad enough to do anything other than repair their little libraries and continue on.

    I speak of… teenagers.

      1. By taking stock in the comunity, though, someone who knocks it over and sees it back up the next day will be less likely to do it again if they see someone in charge of its upkeep. 

    1. They installed one of the first ones right by a high school. It works really well. Kids. They like it. 

    2. The problem with my neighborhood/town/edge of civilization wouldn’t be the teens* but the extremely far right old men who see a commie-nazi plot in everything.

      *as a former ‘rowdy’ teen myself I’d say the expectation of being a hellion and a lack of foresight led me to do destructive things.

  5. The last one looks similar to a solar oven I built for Earth Day in elementary school.

  6. I see this as being a cool idea… But in most of the Western world… Why? I mean, we have LARGE free libraries…

    1. Well, they’re not quite “free” in the sense that you’ll get fined if you return the book late or happen to spill something on it.

      Anyway, the bookshelf in my apartment building’s laundry room is just as good as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Those books are totally gross and mildewed, and they’ve been sitting there for years. I’ve been meaning to talk to the landlord about it. 

    2. I live in Toronto, but not really within walking distance of a library. At worst, a box like this is something which can be ignored (well, actually, at WORST they are something which can be burned down), at best, it’s a pretty cool little project that may encourage a little community spirit. Also, imagine being a kid and finding a book in one that  you end up absolutely loving – that would be a neat little story in itself.

      1. The Toronto Islands has a ‘free library’ on the “Ward’s Island” side. It’s been there for decades, providing a great source of literature and the like. As well, clothing items and knickknacks are also available for taking or leaving.  

    3. There’s a Little Free Library a few blocks from my house, and it’s right across the street from a very charming neighborhood public library.  Both are nice.

    1. Or you could be your own steward while supporting your local library at the same time. All those book sales that they have? Buy some, stock your own library. Don’t thumb your nose at something positive. I’m with lorq. 


    Next thing you know these hippies will be demanding public roads and communal ownership of the atmosphere rather than efficient corporate management.

    1. Where do you live that the threat of incontinent pyromaniacs is a concern?  Perhaps it is time to find a place that is a bit more hospitable? 

      1. You win this week’s “name the punk band” with: Incontinent Pyromaniacs 
        A round of applase, please… XD

  8. Take a book, leave a book is a good idea. Many of the commuter train stations in the Chicago area (Metra, not CTA) have this. It seems to work pretty well.

    1. I think the idea of placing them near bus stops would be fantastic. People would have something to read on the bus, and could easily return their book or add new ones.

      1. Sadly, I fear that within about 3 minutes, all of the books would be gone. And within 5 minutes, so would the library.

    2. They have partnered with Blacks in Green and Chicago Awesome Foundation to bring a few to Chicago. 

  9. Here’s a bit more about the libraries and vandalism from the LFL site:
    In a full year of experience with Little Libraries, only one incident occurred–a door was removed.  But here’s the catch.  If was found within a day, a neighbor repaired it and it was back on the Library within another day. Then within a month, three Libraries were damaged by drunk people. But don’t worry. Those incidents occurred while hundreds of thousands of people passed by the Libraries and probably tens of thousands used them. If you’re anxious, put the Library in a highly visible spot; not in a vacant lot with weeds and trash all around it. Have lots of people using it and looking out for it.  Keep it clean and busy. 

  10. I wouldn’t mind installing one at the edge of my front yard.  I get enough foot traffic (and certainly have enough books) to make it conceivably worthwhile.  Curating the collection (my contributions to it, anyway) will take a bit of thought, but that’s part of the fun.

    I look forward especially to building the box.  Think I’ll make it lighted, too.

    1. Donald, can you e-mail me – my user name at gmail? I can’t find an e-mail address for you and I want to ask you about something.

  11. Sooner or later some idiot of a city official will order all such things removed because of some rule about this or that.  Red tape over sanity, learning and sharing.

    1. Yes , such as setting rocks to catch items to prevent storm drains from clogging, only to have the city workers remove said rocks and allow storm drain to be obstructed. Urban planning at its finest. 

  12. I would absolutely love to do this.. but due to the fact people tried to kill me several times in high school for being able to read.. I dont think it would exactly go over well. (Not exaggerating at all sadly)

  13. I find the message irritating

    “We read to know we are not alone”

    Don’t tell me why I read..can’t we have a service without  philosophical preachings? Organized religion can take many forms..

    1. Well, that’s C.S. Lewis for you.  Personally, I read when I know I am alone.  Otherwise, it’s kinda rude.

        1. It’s a slower process, but I find that I am no longer irritated by harmless, pithy observations about humanity. So it’s working.

    2. That’s a personal tag put on by the steward of the library. I think it makes that box unique, and if that’s all it takes to make you not want to take a book, you’re not much of a reader. 

  14. Now I’ll look like an ass when my submitteration of LFL finally gets through moderation…

  15. A wonderful idea – if we lived in times of consideration and civility. There are just too many shitheads out there who won’t hesitate to vandalize these things, steal all of the books, or take without reciprocating. I hate feeling so cynical, I really do.

    1. Eh, bring ’em on.  I have plenty of books, lots of patience, and a bit more faith in humanity.  Plus, there are many more-satisfying things to vandalize.  Being the guy who repeatedly defaces/destroys/robs the local LFL would be kinda like being the local dude who kicks people’s crutches out from under them and ties firecrackers to kittens’ tails.  Sure, they’re out there, but they’re not very numerous, nor should they be permitted to dictate the furnishings of our community landscape.

      Otherwise we just won’t have nice things.  You want to live “in times of consideration and civility”?  Those times are not a natural state that will occur in a vacuum.  Civilization is not a default state.  It requires a lot of bloody effort.  You want nice things, you gotta make nice things.  You want nice people, you gotta make nice people.

      Don’t seek reciprocity.  Rather than being bitterly disappointed when it fails to materialize, you can instead be pleasantly surprised when it does show up.

    2. You can’t steal something that is free. This is a neighborhood project. Yes, there are the shitheads in every neighborhood, but each library has a steward looking after it. It’s definitely a way to address who is a jerk, for sure, but people are generally respectful of them. Usually depends on where you put them. 

  16. This is heartwarming! This is the future of humanity when humanity will be conscious & aware: a Seer, and not a blind who needs the rails of rules in terms to bump into harmony…

  17. Our  kids biggest problem, educationally, is lack of books, especially for impoverished kids.

    I would love to see folks put these libraries up in depressed neighborhoods, and tell people if they like a book a lot, they can keep it. Free books effing rule.

    The best thing you can do for kids is give them books to choose from and keep. Ask Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at USC and literacy guru.I dare all the well-off hipsters to build these in the nasty part of town and keep them stocked for the kids–no crap. Only literature. No Disney. No cartoon books or books of television shows. Just good children’s literature. Yes, graphic novels count.

    It would be a great way to help kids stave off the debilitating effects of poverty since we as a society have chosen to ignore and blame them.

    1. One of the best way to get a kid who is adverse to books reading is giving them Disney and cartoon books. While it may not be the best anything they can keep and enjoy is a start.

      1. Actually that is the worst way–kids don’t need those books. Give them real picture books by award winning children’s book authors. No need to stoop down to the level of Disney. No need at all.

        So, I disagree strenuously.

        In fact, giving Disney books is the lazy man’s way of getting kids interested in literature.

        1. No, I’ll agree with DMStone.  If you’re talking about getting a kid hooked on reading when none of the usual techniques have worked (“adverse to reading”), then you do whatever it takes to get them going.  Comic books, Disney tales, instructions on how to build a Lego At-At….manga is what finally did it for one of my daughters.  You do what you have to do.

          Then they can go on to read the award-winning stuff.  It’s not either-or.

          1. My point is that we who donate the books should be aware and donate the good stuff, not the crap.

            Kids will read the good stuff, especially if that’s all that’s available.

    2. At a number of medical clinics on the south side of Chicago, that’s exactly what happens: any kid who comes in for an appointment gets to pick out a (donated) book to keep.

  18. The humidity around here makes me worry for the book survival but I’d love to see one of these in the entry hall to my daughter’s daycare. She’s not old enough to be sure the books would survive long enough to return (which is why we don’t go to real libraries with her yet), but I’d gladly help repopulate the little one.

  19.  I like the idea, but it would only work in neighborhoods where you are not likely to find all the books urinated on.  Hope for the best, but expect the worst.

  20. We have a lovely little Neighbourhood Book Exchange on the corner of Charles and Lakewood in Vancouver’s (BC) Grandview neighbourhood (near Commercial Drive). There are three shelves, two for adult books and one for kids’ books. There’s tremendous turnover. Eileen Mosca designed and painted it.

  21. Those little boxes sure are cute.

    But like many others here, I wonder about the sustainability of an effort like this.  Location and environmental concerns strike me as the most challenging.

    Ann Arbor has a fantastic local library – with one large main library (downtown) and 4 fine branch libraries  on the periphery of the city – and a public transit system.  (Let’s not mention the University of Michigan Libraries, although those are limited to the faculty, students, and staff of the University.)

    They seem to fill as much a social need as anything else, and at a very local scale.  Neighborhood builders.

    There aren’t many Free Little Libraries in Michigan – and the intellectual evangelist in me is amused to see that they’re all located in the wealthier, better educated (and most likely more progressive) mid-sized cities.

    1. As a used book seller, I can guarantee many of these concerns are valid. Our LFL (our recycling bin) is regularly pilfered. I don’t mind if people want to take home tattered old PBs we had no market for, however, more often then not they are trying to sell the books back to us for quick cash. Also, every St. Patrick’s day, Mardi Gras, and most other drinking holidays it is set ablaze.

  22. Most of my local grocery stores have the same thing.  They also accept donations for the books for local charities.  Works better when it doesn’t have to live outside.

  23. Question is, works better for what?  The look and design of these things tends to attract attention and interest…and generosity and goodwill.  So it’s not just the books that matter.  People get to meet and know their neighbors because of them.  Being outdoors at places where people can gather seems to help.  The weather is almost never a problem for at least two reasons: books come and go pretty quickly, and most Little Libraries have been built to withstand the weather.   They also have stewards and stakeholders who watch out for them in addition to the book donors and readers.  

  24. I’m the steward of the Little Free Library in the first picture. My husband built it. It’s waterproof and humidity is not an issue in Los Angeles, so the books stay in good shape. Not that they are ever in there for very long. Things tend to rotate fairly quickly and if they don’t, I  rotate them into my designated library shelf inside for a bit and then put them out again another time. I’m near a high school, so tons of teens go by. They seem to like it. sometimes there’s a little cluster sitting of them around and reading. The feedback from neighbors has been great, a lot of books come in and go out and I do indeed shop at the local library book sales to help stock it. 

    I picked the CS Lewis quote because I like it and it seems to fit the nature of this little library – I hear people talking about books and how much they love them and how thrilled they are seeing a book they like in there, even if they don’t take it. I think we live in lonely times and I think books help us connect.  Also, I spent a whole lot of my formative years checking the backs of closets and wardrobes, just in case Narnia was real, so CS. Lewis will always have a special place in my heart. I’ll probably change the quote occasionally to keep things interesting.  Not because someone doesn’t like it  — I really don’t care about that. Part of the beauty of reading is that exposes you to different ideas and it’s perfectly fine to not like all of them. 

    Someday I hope to meet whichever neighbor is putting in all the  cool noir stuff and have a nice discussion about detectives over a couple of whiskeys. 

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