Do You Want A Little Free Library in Your Neighbourhood?

Have you seen the Little Free Libraries that keep springing up everywhere?

If not then you’re in for a real treat. Although I’d seen a couple, I’d no idea they were so widespread until I read an article by Margaret Aldrich in The Atlantic . ,,A.K.Andrew,a writer's notebook

First Little Free Library

What Are They?

A Little Free library is essentially a small bookcase that someone has built and filled with books. People can borrow books from them or take a book to keep, and replace it with one they put inside. And it’s all based on the honour system.

Tod Bol built the first Little Free Library in the Mississippi River town of Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009, as a tribute to his mother—a dedicated reader and former schoolteacher. When he saw the people of his community gathering around it like a neighborhood water cooler, exchanging conversation as well as books, he knew he wanted to take his simple idea farther.

“We have a natural sense of wanting to be connected, but there are so many things that push us apart,” Bol says. “I think Little Free Libraries open the door to conversations we want to have with each other.” He goes on , “We have a natural sense of wanting to be connected, but there are so many things that push us apart,” Bol says. “I think Little Free Libraries open the door to conversations we want to have with each other.”

Since Tod Bul had this brilliant brain wave, the idea has spread all over the US, and now into other countries.As of January 2014, there are over 15,000 Little Libraries worldwide, and counting. An estimated 1,650,000 books were donated and borrowed from 2010-2013

Why do they Have Such Appeal?

Everyone loves things for free don’t they? But people also like things that make them feel like they are part of a community, something they can easily participate in. In fact what books are in the Little Free Library is going to tell you a lot about your neighbours. I think the other appeal is that it is so low tech in a world that is seething with gadgets, reinventing the book and the way we read it at every turn.

Many people may remember being taken to a library when they were little and that just might not happen so easily now.

What is Their Real Potential?

The other potential, and this has already happened, is that the Little free Library becomes a low budget way for the “real thing” to reach areas in the world, including the US, that simply don’t have the money to build, stock or staff a traditional library. The organization’s Books Around the Block program, for example, aims to bring LFLs to places where kids and adults don’t have easy access to books. In North Minneapolis, an area more often in the news for shootings than community engagement, the Books Around the Block initiative set up 40 of the little libraries. Two hundred more sprung up shortly thereafter.

How Can You get a Little Free Library in Your Neighbourhood?

If you’ve not found one in your neighbourhood then do one of two things. Check on line to see if theres a local map showing where they are.

Sitting Room, A.K.Andrew, A writer's notebook

Little Free Library outside the Sitting Room by A.K. Andrew

OR, better still…..Build one !!! and put it outside your front door. I have considered it myself, but have not yet done it.

But I know the first time I came across one – and I’d not heard of the movement at the time – I thought  -Wow, this is so cool that someone took the time to build this little case, and fill it with books. I also thought it really said something about the neighbourhood. That it was somewhere people cared about and somewhere  people trusted others enough to not worry they would be immediately ”stolen” from. Isn’t that the essence of what we want in a liveable society? Sounds good to me.

What do you think are the pro’s and con’s of the idea of a Little Free Library?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

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  1. I’ve heard about little libraries here and there, but haven’t actually seen one. It’s a great idea though and one I would be likely to pursue if I was still teaching out in rural farmland. The library there was very small. I read a ton of books when I worked in the Everglades because of the book exchange cart that sat in one of the main dormitory kitchens. In Yellowstone, there were always random paperbacks on a stand as well, but I never read any of those for some reason.
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  2. I’ve seen one of these where my son lives AK! And I loved it. My daughter-in-law will bring a book to swap with one if it’s on our walk. Where I live there are “development restrictions” and it wouldn’t be possible. However, it’s given me an idea to keep my ears and eyes open for someplace near where it might be allowed. Good idea AK. Thanks.
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  3. Yes, I saw one close by my house while I was on a walk recently. It is adorable as I opened up the wooden door to see the books inside. Such a delight! I like that it encourages people to read more 🙂
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  4. I have actually considered doing something like this for a little while now. Through various sources there are many times where I acquire physical books still and many of them I will never read again. I think it would be great to have a little exchange space where I might come across new things to read and share.
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  5. I love these LFL. There’s one in my neighborhood and several around town. They are the best of both worlds: the world of books and literature plus the world of neighborliness.

  6. Hi AK: I don’t believe I’ve seen one of these free-standing little libraries, but I have noticed that in a growing number of places (the gym where I used to go, a restaurant I recently ate it, a lodge I recently stayed at) that establishments are creating free libraries and book exchanges where people can take, bring, or borrow a book. As long as people are reading, I don’t care how where they’re getting the books. But hats-off to Mr. Bul for creating a model we can easily follow right in our own yards or communities! Thx for the great post.
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    • Well that is interesting Doreen. I haven’t seen ad hoc libraries like the ones you mention – which sound great BTW but I have seen books left outside of stores that say -this book is part of a ‘free read’, pass it on when you’ve finished – or some such thing. It really is great how people are becoming creative about sharing books. Thanks so much for your comment:-)
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  7. What an amazing idea. I am already thinking of how to create a little free library infront of my appartment.

  8. Hi A.K.! There are a few of these in Toronto, and a friend of mine in the east end has one in her neighbourhood. We all have books we just don’t have room for – this is a great way to repurpose and share them with our friends. I’m in a housing co-op, and we have a whole room on the top floor exactly like this!
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