Little Free Library #2646 is open for business

Back in May, I posted about a nearby Little Free Library I happened upon, and promised to open my own. Well, we did it yesterday. You can see it in person here.

Little Free Library #2646 was built by my good friend Wesley Smith with much manly help from my husband Russell Bates. I painted it and gathered books.

We put it on a sad vacant lot near our house and a nursery school. We've already had donations from neighbors of all ages and a few books have been borrowed.

 You can learn more about opening your own Little Free Library or supporting them here. 



  1. Since reading the original article, I’ve noticed 3 or 4 around town. My own plans to create one specializing in DVDs remain pending…

  2. I’ve got a big free library a few blocks from where I live, but I’m still supportive of this. 

      1. Not frequently, but occasionally I comment on the Boing. Hola! And hola Bart’s dad! 

        But you’re right, DotD is my general commenting hangout. 

  3. nice idea, i got excited to start one too but with all the local libraries around i couldn’t think of where to put one. Also, $400??? are they bonkers?

    1. If you’re a bit handy, you can make your own for free.  Some people have made them out of repurposed steamer trunks, old newspaper vending machines, even the occasional red British telephone booth.

      They’re great for neighborhoods without easy access to “real” public libraries, but there’s no reason even library-rich neighborhoods can’t use them.  Some people don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to get a library card, or schlep all the way out to their nearest public library for something to read, whereas they might be inclined to browse a box full of free books if it’s right there next to the sidewalk, and regular visitors get the concept quite readily, and are more than happy to donate.  Our library’s been pretty self-sustaining with a good balance of borrowers and donaters.

      It’s a good way to get books into the hands of some people who otherwise mightn’t bother seeking them out, but it’s also a great way to simply engage with one’s neighborhood!

    2.  We have a great one at the train station I use.  It’s an open cardboard box with a sign that says “Need a book?  Take a book.  Have a book?  Leave a book.”

      Seems to work just as well, the point is to just do it and put it anywhere.

  4. That’s beautiful, Amy!  Congratulations!

    And thanks again for your original post.  It inspired me to build my own LFL less than a month after you posted (since I was on hiatus, I had more free time than usual).  Ours has gotten lots of attention and appreciation and use, and it’s been immensely satisfying being its builder and steward.

    Here’s its picture.  Dedicated to the memory of Dalton and Cleo Trumbo, it always contains at least one copy of Johnny Got His Gun.

    Now I’m sorely tempted to build another, possibly science-fiction-themed one, though it would be harder to be steward to a Little Free Library that wasn’t right at the foot of my driveway.

  5. Two beautiful libraries, Amy and Donald. The whimsy makes them that much more magical.
    I rent, but I’m wondering if I might be able to talk some folks into letting me set one up near work.

  6. so excited for this link- I dolled up an old mail box last week and put it on our corner as a book exchange, didn’t know about getting a number, will be all over it! 

  7. If I’d set one up here in my neighborhood (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), unfortunately the books would be gone after one night, the housing one night later … 

  8. I find it tragic that people put energy into paying for and setting up these only slightly useful little libraries when actual free libraries are being attacked (loss of tax-payer support and public funding). Why not partner with your local library (or create one) and help out with the bookmobile (or start one) that brings truly useful and varied information to people who really need it? How many of these little libraries go in poorer neighborhoods? How many are just rich folk celebrating themselves and trying to create a community when they have a robust one (a true cross-section) waiting for them at their local library? Why ignore your existing libraries?
    If you just want to spread books, try no infrastructure, just the passing on of books.

    1. @tha: Here in Los Angeles our library system is both popular and well-funded (last year’s Measure L raised the percentage of tax revenue dedicated to libraries, and passed with 63% of the vote). LFLs are about increasing the visibility and fun of reading, which I would argue only increases support for real libraries. With a small bit of ingenuity, the cost of setting up an LFL is minimal. And yes, “trying to create a community” is part of this also. Definitely not going to apologize for that.

      1. You certainly owe no apology- but to think that building a LFL is going to promote literacy among the groups who need that assistance the most is simply fooling yourself- and I don’t think you’re a fool.
        It’s great that LA has such support for libraries, but it is the exception, not the rule. And I’d still argue that the Compton library being closed three days a week isn’t exactly anything to be proud about when Malibu is open every day.
        But to be clear, I’m not saying don’t work toward literacy- but why not connect this to other local resources like libraries? Include library card registration forms or brochures for local literacy groups (recruit volunteers!) in your LFL. The ProLit link on the LFL website is great, but how many people click that link on the bottom? No one here has commented on the great literacy work they’re doing. From what I’ve heard and read about LFLs, that just doesn’t seem to be the emphasis as much as the cute little shack where you can watch what other people are reading. Seriously, how is this an improvement on the well-stocked and staffed bookmobile?
        I’m sorry to poop on your parade (honestly), but I’d really love to see this level of enthusiasm and monetary support for the programs that are already in place promoting literacy and providing tutoring and reference assistance to people. I’d really recommend connecting to a local program like Literacy tutoring is one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done in my life, but there are many, many ways to lend a hand. And people with this type of enthusiasm and creativity could be so much more useful!

        1. You have a lot of great ideas. I recommend getting in contact with Rick Brooks or Tod Bol and putting some of your ideas into action. It won’t cost you one penny. 

          Or, you know. The other thing. Amy has brought you the story. It’s up to you to choose to gripe semi-privately about this or engage in this project. Where will you wind up?

          1.  I’m a library professional and have worked in literacy for years. Among other things, I ran a literacy program in a correctional facility for three years. I think I am doing fine on putting my energy into promoting freedom of information and making it accessible to everyone. I’m not griping, I’m raising valid concerns that I thought people interested in promoting literacy and reading would at least understand are important to reflect on. I truly do apologize that you were offended by my comments. I hope your LFL is a success.

        2. Really, no one has said or implied that building a LFL is any substitute for a bookmobile, or lending support to public libraries.  I understand that the first sentence you posted didn’t mean that the Little Free Libraries themselves were “tragic,” but that the plight of most public libraries is, but you shouldn’t assume that LFLs themselves are robbing real libraries of resources like our time, energy, money, and manpower.

          I don’t live in a particularly glamorous neighborhood.  Down the block and across the street is John Muir High School (alma mater of such luminaries as Jackie Robinson and Fred Phelps, when it was still John Muir Junior College, as well as David Lee Roth, Rodney King, and Sirhan Sirhan, if you can dig it), and this school has been depressingly low-performing for years.  About a quarter of the students score “Proficient” or above in English Language Arts, and in 2007 the school had its fourth principal in five years.

          If someone were to attempt to make a genuine improvement in local literacy in my neighborhood, it’s obvious that it would take a hell of a lot more effort and resources than a wooden box with a dozen paperbacks in it.  And yet the fact remains that neighborhood kids wander by my LFL all the livelong day, and every now and then one of them will stop, browse through what’s in there, and take something to read.  Something they wouldn’t otherwise have found by the sidewalk on their way to school or the ice cream parlor on the corner.

          That’s neato.  It doesn’t solve the literacy problem or the academics problems at Muir, and it doesn’t pretend to even address them.  It just makes it a teeny bit easier to have something to read.  I never thought of it as a literacy project at all.  But I wanted to engage with my neighbors, and I happen to have a shitload of books.  Also, I get thanked several times a week by neighbors and passers-by, which was completely unexpected.

          Rather than thinking of this concept as a depressingly half-assed attempt to promote literacy by self-satisfied, well-read white folks, why not look at it the way my neighbors and I do: as a manifestation of community and neighborliness.  It also does not represent the sum total of my involvement in the neighborhood, nor with our libraries.  Maybe that’s not true of all LFL builders and stewards, but since those people tend to be book-lovers first and foremost, as well as community-minded by nature, you shouldn’t assume that they stop their involvement short of being genuinely useful to the causes dear to your heart.

    2. The initial push was settled in South Chicago in conjunction with Blacks in Green and the Chicago Awesome Foundation, and there are LFLs all around the world, in neighborhoods way more poor than the poorest in the US. 

      1. Apologies- my point is not that LFLs are bad, but that they are a vast decrease in quality of service compared to libraries/bookmobiles (almost all of which are free, so the F in LFL doesn’t make much sense) and programs like these make people say: “see we don’t need libraries anymore- we have the internet and LFLs!” And make no mistake, people *do* make these types of arguments all the time when voting for public funding comes around. It’d be nicer to see this enthusiasm go into more productive and efficient programs and/or to see the LFL emphasis be on promoting libraries and literacy programs and the values of those, instead of cute miniature buildings. I love the creative side, but that seems to be all there is to this project. But my complaint is nothing new- this type of project catches people’s attention and imagination and most people just don’t really care about the mission of it. However, that doesn’t invalidate the project: I’m trying to draw attention to the real mission and importance of LFLs and to point out that there are better ways to work towards that mission. I mean, we’re talking about a pretty box full of books that the owner(s) likes. That’s nice, but not *that* nice.

        1. Now that you’ve complained about the cute miniature buildings that provide free books to people in local neighborhoods and encourage reading, time to take action yourself. Looking forward to what you come up with. Stay in touch.

          1.  Organleroy: I find it telling that your response to me pointing out that even your well-funded LA County library system funnels more resources to the well-to-do communities is that somehow I am just complaining and that *I* need to do more work. Conveniently, your logic makes things easier for you and situations better for no one. Fortunately for all of us, I doubt that you are representative of the LFL community’s interest in promoting literacy (perhaps you’re not involved at all?).

            “Cute miniature buildings” is not sarcasm- they are quite beautiful- I’m simply suggesting to take it one or two steps further and I’m confused why that is insulting to you. Btw- I work eight hours a day trying to ensure that the freedom of information is accessible to everyone regardless of whether or not they live in my neighborhood or whether or not they pat my back or whether or not *I* think they deserve it. This requires that I constantly challenge my own concepts and look for new ways to achieve these goals- LFLs are one such innovative method, but from all I’ve read and seen of these in recent months the emphasis is on form over function and “literacy and reading” have gotten lost in the mix. Don’t just react with anger- think about it. They can become pretty boxes filled with books or they can become real conduits to connecting people to information, literacy and reading. I take this seriously.

            For those people serious about this topic: Truly, I think LFL can be as successful at promoting literacy and reading as you want it to be. And I hope that LFL participants will work towards those goals- please check out that link, literacy tutoring is a lot of fun! There are so many vibrant literacy communities for you to tie into and work with- have fun :)

        2. I think you’ve missed the point. While you say most libraries are free, more than simply lending power that large libraries have to gift, LFLs provide a way to pay forward a good deed of sharing one’s love of literature with someone, without even the need to bring the book back. If you liked the book you chose, and you like the idea behind it, you bring a book to replace it. 

          True, many LFLs reflect the personal tastes of their own individual stewards, but the tastes change as people recycle their reading materials to share their tastes with others who may enjoy reading something new. 
          As for the mission of the movement itself, unless you are in fact involved, please don’t speak to that, as it’s disparaging to spout conjecture while doing nothing. A person of your expertise should be not only championing this, but finding out more, maybe even putting one up in your front yard, and becoming involved so you can better understand and see how this concept works. 
          I’m not saying that LFLs are endangering the future of Public Libraries. Far from it. To use a crude comparison, they give you just a taste of the drug that sustains the literate, where it interests and intrigues the reader to seek out a wider variety of books. That’s where the Public Libraries come in. 
          This isn’t a small movement. That plaque on the newest LFL? It reads 2646. Over 2600 Little Free Libraries in existence. 
          Now, as a steward of your own public library, find out where the closest one is to you (on their website, you can map it), and email the stewards, asking if it would be alright to put some library literature in there. I doubt they would say no. 
          Is there no Little Free Library by you? Now you know how a lot of people feel when there’s no Public Library in the area. These are doing good for their communities, and I can’t see a single negative that cannot be spun into a positive by the Library Advocates of America once a vote for public funding comes around. I mean, every one of them is literate, if not articulate, right? 

          1.  You say that it is a strength that the user gets to contribute the books they would like to see on the LFL shelves? Isn’t that a bit backwards? If someone wants to pursue knowledge, is it reasonable to ask them to provide the materials? Is that, indeed, free? I can see what your point is, and it is certainly nice to allow the users to contribute, but it does not create a relevant collection- again, those individuals with the money/books get to contribute and therefore guide the development of the collection. That’s not free in either sense of the word.

            And I’m glad that you are thinking about this, but please stop asking me to do the work so that LFL can realize their missions- it’s not only insulting to me, who already works and sacrifices a lot to provide more comprehensive and extensive services, but it’s also insulting to LFL, who is clearly capable of realizing their own mission:

            “To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
            To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations
            To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world – more than Andrew Carnegie–and then more.”

            The point I made in my first (admittedly overly-grumpy) post and the same point I make now is that yes, LFL does some neat stuff and provides some inspired fun centered on books, but does it really meet the first two mission statements? Clearly, it meets the third, clearly it meets part of the second, but it does not seem to comingle the LFL community with libraries and literacy organizations- at least not in their press and not on their website and it’s not indicated by members like yourself. If you had visited a library or had spoken with someone who had, you’d know that virtually all public libraries and many academic libraries (including mine) have ‘give a book, take a book’ or ‘honor system’ collections that function exactly as the LFLs. Also, bookmobiles usually don’t charge fines since the people they cater to don’t have reliable ways of returning items on time. And if you had worked with literacy, you’d know that it is insulting to assume that someone who is learning to read wouldn’t feel extremely put-off and dejected by being asked to contribute books- deciding to learn to read and overcoming the various associated hurdles is a daunting enough task as it is. So, sure LFLs have their niche and they *are* very nice- but let’s not get confused and go around saying that they fulfill their mission while ignoring most of statements one and two entirely (imo). There’s no reason to scoff at a program that provides free books, but there’s no reason to contend that they do more than that. To do so is to damage and belittle the good and difficult work that libraries and literacy programs do. Yes, pat yourself on the back for a job well-done creating a beautiful LFL in a vacant lot, but don’t assume you are doing literacy work when you haven’t put forth that effort yet. If what you want to do is build the LFL and exchange books (which is 100% awesome in my book), promote it as a free book exchange, not as a library and literacy tool.  [caveat, it can be argued that statements one and three both only call for the building of the LFLs, but including ‘promote literacy and the love of reading’ front and center, suggests otherwise- and thus I am only drawing logical conclusions that others draw about the overall mission being to ‘promote literacy and the love of reading.’ **And I can and should speak to a group’s publicized mission- they should be accountable to that.**]
            And I’m not saying to stop or slow down- keep it up!

  9. Congrats!  I just put mine up this week – #2664. I use Delicious Library to allow neighbors to see what’s in the library.

  10. We also built our own ‘Take one Leave one’ Library for the people in our neighborhood. People love it and thank us for it. At the first night someone took all the book for himself but a few days later all the neighbors came to put some books in it. Now the bookshelf is completelly loaded with books. We are thinking about building an extension to it !!! Better than we expected !

    We also give free stuff every day in front of our house. It makes people happy. We even threw a Free Party last weekend with free beer and hot dogs. Anyways, it’s all on the website. Tell us if you like it !

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