Curious little birdfeeder-sized, house-shaped structures full of books are starting to appear around various towns. Adults and kids alike are entranced by these little houses of joy and community. Maybe you’ve even seen them in your neighborhood (or on our Instagram!). Whatever the case, Little Free Libraries are taking communities by storm, and they are a trend we are more than happy to stand behind.
The concept is simple. Little Free Libraries are just what they sound like—miniature libraries full of free books. You can take a book from the library, and then either return it when you finish or add a new book to the collection. Some Little Free Libraries even have journals to record thoughts about or requests for certain books. But beyond encouraging reading and promoting literacy, Little Free Libraries develop community bonds as adults and children interact and engage with people of all ages in their neighborhood.
So where did these boxes come from and how did they become so widespread? In 2009, Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse to honor his mother who had been a teacher and avid reader. He set the model on a post in his front yard and filled it with books for people to take and return as a tribute to her memory. The neighborhood loved it and encouraged him to make more for other areas.
Rick Brooks appreciated Todd’s project and the social entrepreneurial implications it had. Expanding the project would continue the efforts of other notable figures who had hoped to encourage and promote reading and literacy around the country and even the world. Capitalizing on neighborhood kiosks, the newfound sharing network (think Uber and Rent the Runway), and “take a book, leave a book” collections in coffee shops, the pair finalized the mission and purpose of what had been a small, neighborhood project. Today, almost six years later, there are more than 25,000 Little Free Libraries around the world, with more built each day.
The beauty of the project is the customizability. There are no set rules about what a Little Free Library has to look like or where it has to be. If outside, weather-proofing is obviously important, but these libraries can also take the shape of wicker basket crates in apartment buildings or shelves in a community center. Sharing books and strengthening communities are the objectives, and those ideals can take many forms.
We were interested in how to add a Little Free Library to our neighborhood, and the process is pretty straightforward. First, find a spot easily accessible that already has abundant foot traffic. The Little Free Library next needs a steward, someone to monitor and maintain the structure as well as make sure there are books inside. The actual library itself can either be bought online or built. If you choose to build your own Little Free Library, you must register it with littlefreelibrary.org so that they can give you a charter and make your library official for use. After that, promote and advertise. Tell neighbors, friends, the kids you babysit, your son’s baseball couch, maybe even your barista—let everyone know that a new Little Free Library is on the market.
Whether we decide to build, buy or simply borrow from Little Free Libraries, we will be sure to take advantage of these awesome community libraries that are bringing people together in such an interesting and educational way.
To find a Little Free Library near you, visit littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap.
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