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What Are Little Free Libraries?

A boy picking out a book from a local Little Free Library.

You might have noticed little boxes popping up around your town that look kind of like big birdhouses perched on mailbox posts. These are filled with books, and they’re part of the Little Free Library movement.

What Is a Little Free Library?

Little Free Libraries are usually a wooden box (sometimes shaped like a house) on a stand in someone’s yard along the sidewalk. Homeowners and passersby put books in the box for both kids and adults.

Then, anyone who passes can choose a book they want to read and take it with them. Leaving books in a free public book exchange (like, say, a milk crate at a coffee shop) isn’t exactly a new concept.

However, these tiny community libraries were started in 2011 by Todd Bol, the founder of LittleFreeLibrary.org. He came up with the idea as a way to honor the memory of his mother (who was a schoolteacher) and encourage literacy.

You don’t need a library card to borrow books from a Little Free Library. In fact, you don’t even have to return the book. However, it’s courteous to swap books or return those you borrow so others can read them. “Take a book, leave a book” is the motto you’ll see inscribed on many of The Little Free Libraries, but it’s not a requirement.

Should You Put a Little Free Library in Your Yard?

Setting up a Little Free Library in your yard is an easy way to promote literacy in your community. You can also donate a Little Free Library to a community if you can’t set one up yourself.

This will encourage an interest in books and reading. It can also provide people who might not be able to get to the library with books to read. It also gives you a chance to pass along books you’ve enjoyed.

How Do You Start a Little Free Library?

If you don’t have a Little Free Library in your area (or just wish there were more), you can start one of your own. Some people just put up an unofficial library box. However, if you do it through the official Little Free Library organization, your mini-library will be included on its map so people can find it. You can shop for premade library boxes on the site or make your own.

Whether you go through the Little Free Library site or not, you might need to check with your city about putting up a free library, as there might be zoning laws. Once you’ve got local permission and your library is up, it’s time to stock it!

Resist the urge to pack it to the brim with books, though—you want others in the community to have some space to leave their books, too.

We enjoy strolling around the neighborhoods in our city, looking for free libraries. We pick up new books for free and leave behind some we no longer need. Whether you decide to join the Little Free Library movement or not, keep your eyes peeled for little libraries in your area!

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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