Do Good: How to Help the Little Free Libraries

Posted by Cybil on November 11, 2018


Last month Todd Bol, the founder of the nonprofit literary group Little Free Library, died in Minnesota at the age of 62. In honor of his passion for libraries and making books accessible, we're highlighting this group and how you can help.


Painted red and shaped like a miniature one-room schoolhouse in honor of his school teacher mother, the first Little Free Library—built by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009—launched what would become a worldwide movement.

Just nine years later, more than 75,000 such “Little Free Libraries” dot the globe in all 50 U.S. states and in 88 countries. Often custom painted by local artists, these tiny book collections are outfitted with the cheerful motto "Take a book, return a book!"

Believing that no one should have to live in a book desert, the nonprofit Little Free Library needs donations to keep the movement going. Find out how you can help place a Little Free Library in your hometown and in cities across the globe. You can also get involved by becoming the "steward" of your own library by ordering one ready-made or designing your own!

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Photos courtesy of Little Free Library





Comments Showing 1-50 of 60 (60 new)


message 1: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne Smith i add books all the time to my local Little Libraries. So easy and so satisfying


message 2: by Kabrada (new)

Kabrada I know for a fact that there were similar installations here in Germany as early as the late 90s, so stating that someone "launched a movement" in 2009 seems a bit absurd, no matter how important this particular person and their organization might be in the US.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ I love the one in Sandringham, Auckland!


Mayke (acozyliving)☕️ No little library around where I live. Have been loving this initiative from the first moment I've seen it. What a wonderful idea to make books and reading more accessible.


message 5: by Moriquen (new)

Moriquen I've got one myself: https://www.facebook.com/Abelebib/ <3 And in Europe this is a good website to track book cases that aren't necessarilly little free libraries: https://openbookcase.org/


message 6: by ⚣Michaelle⚣ (last edited Nov 11, 2018 01:59PM) (new)

⚣Michaelle⚣ There's one at the Sundial Bridge patio in Redding California; I'd only just listened to Kim Fielding's The Little Library the week before when I ran across it - totally blew my mind.

There are also some inside the public areas of many campgrounds. I wish I'd thought to make a list when I started noticing them (5-6 years ago); I definitely remember one in an RV Park in Colorado and another in a campground by a golf course Wisconsin. Haven't run across one anywhere here in Las Vegas yet but I keep looking!! (I know there are some in the city - just none near me...or looking at the map, anywhere on this side of town at all!)

Edited to add: Just got confirmation from the SigO that there is indeed an open bookcase at the VA Hospital here in the northern part of Las Vegas. Two of them...one on the first floor and the other on the third.

Happy reading everyone!


message 7: by Sharah (new)

Sharah McConville There are about 10 Little Libraries around my town (in QLD Australia). I use them all the time!


message 8: by Jannene (new)

Jannene There are two in the Lansing area, Michigan. I put one book in.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I see some around where I live, but I always wonder how well they do during heavy rain and such.


message 10: by Mya (new)

Mya I think this concept is so cute. I think I seen some around where I live but I will keep a better eye out.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ High fifteen wrote: "I see some around where I live, but I always wonder how well they do during heavy rain and such."

The one I use in Sandringham has windowless doors that shut.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Carol ꧁꧂ wrote: "High fifteen wrote: "I see some around where I live, but I always wonder how well they do during heavy rain and such."

The one I use in Sandringham has windowless doors that shut."

Hmmm, the one's by me have windowed doors, and with our weather I'm not sure if it is the best idea to even have one made out of wood.


message 13: by ⚣Michaelle⚣ (last edited Nov 11, 2018 03:30PM) (new)

⚣Michaelle⚣ High fifteen wrote: "Hmmm, the one's by me have windowed doors, and with our weather I'm not sure if it is the best idea to even have one made out of wood. "

The wood is treated and/or stained & coated with protectant in many cases - and the windows are probably specific to the installation. That's how people have houses with windows and wooden patios/decks...


message 14: by Sky (new)

Sky SF We have one in our front yard! Always wanted one and just this year our daughter’s Girl Scout troop planted one in our yard as a project. We are so in love. As extreme book worms we take extra special care of all of the books and their little library. It is a solid foundation and is weather proofed, we looked into that! So grateful when we see them around. Our daughter leaves a journal with a pen and sticky notes inside, inviting guests to leave their mark and it helps to make it even more special. Community seems to love it.


message 15: by ⚣Michaelle⚣ (last edited Nov 11, 2018 04:13PM) (new)

⚣Michaelle⚣ Nancy wrote: "How do we find out where they are? I'm in New Bern, N.C."

The organization website (https://littlefreelibrary.org/) has a map option.

https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/

Scroll down for how to use it or open larger window...


message 16: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Hammons Thank you Michaelle, I did find that, but I have another question, are these primarily for children? I don't have any children's books in my house, but I would be happy to buy some new books and leave them. I have a good job and I really want to encourage reading to everybody.


message 17: by Kairia (new)

Kairia I just saw one for the first time in Vancouver, Canada! It was in a little teeny park at Granville Market near the local artist's alley shops.


message 18: by ⚣Michaelle⚣ (last edited Nov 11, 2018 05:06PM) (new)

⚣Michaelle⚣ Nancy wrote: "Thank you Michaelle, I did find that, but I have another question, are these primarily for children? I don't have any children's books in my house, but I would be happy to buy some new books and le..."

Not sure about all of them...but I know there were all kinds of books in the Little Library I saw in Redding (not on the map). I left a Terry Goodkind hardback in that one. The one at the campground in Colorado (I'll come edit my post if I can remember the name) had shelves of books in their public access area...with everything from encyclopedias to magazines to children's books to bodice rippers and the like. I even found a circa 1950's SciFi anthology!

If I go to the one that's closest to me here in LV (still a bit of a drive) I'll check that one to see what's available. It's been my experience that people leave what they have...and that's variety. And I tend to buy books at the Library overstock sales and use those to pad public areas when I'm traveling...


message 19: by Jannene (new)

Jannene Nancy wrote: "Thank you Michaelle, I did find that, but I have another question, are these primarily for children? I don't have any children's books in my house, but I would be happy to buy some new books and le..."

The one near me had all kinds. I thought it would be mainly for kids but that was not the case. I hid one of my book fairy books in the library knowing that someone would put good use to it.


message 20: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Hammons ⚣❣☙ Michaelle ❧❣⚣ wrote: "Nancy wrote: "Thank you Michaelle, I did find that, but I have another question, are these primarily for children? I don't have any children's books in my house, but I would be happy to buy some ne..."

The map had three near me, less that 5 miles (who knew), I'm going to try and find them tomorrow. The Library here has "clean out the shelves" sales, but they don't advertise so I always miss them, I don't go to the library often, it's downtown in the middle of one way streets and I can never remember where it is. I'm glad I heard about this.


message 21: by Christine (new)

Christine I have wanted to build a Little Free Library in my neighborhood for 3 years, but the kits are expensive, and my neighbors have not wanted to donate. : (
Hoping to do more fundraising in the spring!!


message 22: by mirabilos (new)

mirabilos 2009?

We had them as early as 1991 in the German language area, though admittedly only as artist gag. (I looked it up. A geocache was placed on one near me in 2006, which I found in 2007. By then, I had known the concept for a while already, but I don’t recall when exactly I was introduced to it.) Apparently, they became popular in the late 1990s.

I like them and tend to distribute stuff I took from one to another, I have over a dozen within about half an hour drive.


message 23: by Char ღ Denae (last edited Nov 11, 2018 07:12PM) (new)

Char ღ Denae Nancy wrote: "Thank you Michaelle, I did find that, but I have another question, are these primarily for children? I don't have any children's books in my house, but I would be happy to buy some new books and le..."

OOPS! Nevermind! Thanks for answering my question, ladies!!

I wondered the same thing.... are the Little Libraries only for children? I have tons of 'adult' books, ie... all genre of romances. I would love to share these...


message 24: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Wolpers Having recently moved to State College, PA, I've found two Little Libraries so far. One outside a park on Westerly Parkway and one outside the local YMCA on Whitehall Road. Absolutely love coming across them and sometimes taking but mostly adding books. The last time I went by the one on Westerly, it was so crammed full of books I had to re-arrange the stacks to fit in my contributions. Love, love, love these Little Libraries. Can't wait to come across more of them. Would love to make a photo album of them all.


message 25: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear I',m sorry to read the founder has passed. I love the little free libraries. I have two in my neighborhood, not on the map and one in the park for children. When last I checked it was empty. There were two mixed ones in the neighborhood where I lived before this, plus another outside the Montessori school. I think there's another one outside another Montessori school nearby too. It's a cheaper alternative to paperbackswap.com and BookMooch.


message 26: by Caroline (new)

Caroline What a fantastic idea. I just wish there was one by me!!
However, I did read in the paper how the council was going to remove one. I can't remember where this was exactly,but a real shame.
Typical of "Elf and safety" in this country.


message 27: by Kim. E. (new)

Kim. E. I'm very fortunate that there is one less than a mile away from me, as well as one at a very popular park by the river nearby. I donate to it at times, and have been blessed with some great reads as well. I'd love to put one in my front yard for the children and teens that live on y street.


message 28: by Moriquen (new)

Moriquen Nancy wrote: "Thank you Michaelle, I did find that, but I have another question, are these primarily for children? I don't have any children's books in my house, but I would be happy to buy some new books and le..."

This usually depends on the steward. That is why it is important to look for rules in these little libraries. I offer adult and childrens fiction. But no non-fiction books. (Basically because my library isn't that big.) Some accept all books and others have very specific rules.


message 29: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Kabrada wrote: "I know for a fact that there were similar installations here in Germany as early as the late 90s, so stating that someone "launched a movement" in 2009 seems a bit absurd, no matter how important t..."

Love the idea of Free Little Libraries, but honestly never heard of them before.
I had the same thought at reading 'launched a worldwide movement' too.
The open bookshelf in my neighborhood park (at the Hofgarten in Augsburg, Germany) exists since 2001 and is run by the city.
I love to go there, get a random book and sit under a tree to read :)


message 30: by mirabilos (new)

mirabilos are these primarily for children?

Normally, the lowest two shelves are intended for children, and the rest for all other books. This may differ locally, and people may not follow this guideline, though, but in general, you’ll find all sorts of books there.


message 31: by Alex (new)

Alex M I just dropped a stack of books at one near my house a few days ago. I don’t know who put it there, it just showed up over the summer. I’ve read 2 books that i picked up from it already! Will continue adding more


message 32: by Brittany (new)

Brittany I know where three are in my area and I love adding to them! Occasionally I find a treasure or my son finds a new favorite.


message 33: by Alondra (new)

Alondra Miller We have 3 or 4 in our town. I would probably never take one, but I have a bunch to add.

This is such a nice blessing to all readers and just an awesome idea. :)


message 34: by Bryan (new)

Bryan I've donated to these in the past. Thank you for leaving the love of sharing reading with others Todd Bol!


message 35: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Kairia wrote: "I just saw one for the first time in Vancouver, Canada! It was in a little teeny park at Granville Market near the local artist's alley shops."

*Waves from Vancouver*

There is a house in East Van (the Cedar Cottage area) on the corner of East 21st Ave and Prince Albert Street that has a Free Little Library. (They also have a bunch of other things, such as chickens, for people to view.)


message 36: by Clairy (last edited Nov 15, 2018 01:17AM) (new)

Clairy Every time I walk to the busstation in my neighbourhood( the Netherlands, Zeist) I come along this lovely little 'bookhouse'. It is so lovely and I intend to put a book in there next-time but the books that were already 'in the house' were technical books, so... I have to wait a little bit longer until i see a nice fiction story. ;-) wich is more my 'cup o'tea'.!


message 37: by Moriquen (new)

Moriquen Clairy wrote: "Every time I walk to the busstation in my neighbourhood( the Netherlands, Zeist) I come along this lovely little 'bookhouse'. It is so lovely and I intend to put a book in there next-time but the b..."

There's a new one in Zeist since last week. You should find one on the Lisztplein. ;-)


message 38: by Clairy (new)

Clairy Good to know. Thanks for the information, Gitte.
I should be able to find that adress. ;-)

Groetjes.


message 39: by Tracy (new)

Tracy I see Little Free Libraries everywhere I go in Florida, Oregon and California. I always put books in them and often am surprised by the great finds inside! A wonderful way to spread the love of reading....


message 40: by Terry (new)

Terry Derossitt I love finding these everywhere I go. I even found quite a few in Paris when I traveled there this year!


message 41: by Hannah (last edited Nov 16, 2018 07:50AM) (new)

Hannah I know it seems like a nice idea, but I would encourage people to support their actual public libraries (also free), which have a much wider selection and are designed to serve the whole community (not just the locations where well-meaning people have access to place them).


message 42: by Clairy (new)

Clairy Hannah wrote: "I know it seems like a nice idea, but I would encourage people to support their actual public libraries (also free), which have a much wider selection and are designed to serve the whole community ..."

That very much depends on the library. The library I used to work the last 13 years got rid of all the books older than 3 years unless the figures showed that the people were very interested in the title.
I love it to find a mix of "todays books" and of the "yesterday"books.
and not every library does offer this possibility. ;-)


message 43: by Clairy (new)

Clairy Clairy wrote: "Hannah wrote: "I know it seems like a nice idea, but I would encourage people to support their actual public libraries (also free), which have a much wider selection and are designed to serve the w..."

By the way: in Holland the libraries are not 'free'.


message 44: by mirabilos (last edited Nov 16, 2018 04:58PM) (new)

mirabilos Clairy wrote: "Clairy wrote: "Hannah wrote: "I know it seems like a nice idea, but I would encourage people to support their actual public libraries (also free), which have a much wider selection and are designed..."

Nor are they free in Germany (except for kids, usually).

The open libraries in the parc also have a much more diverse selection, some antiquarish. I really love that.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Clairy wrote: "Clairy wrote: "Hannah wrote: "I know it seems like a nice idea, but I would encourage people to support their actual public libraries (also free), which have a much wider selection and are designed..."
Interesting! So is it not free in that you have to pay to rent books from librarys, public or otherwise?


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

⚣❣☙ Michaelle ❧❣⚣ wrote: "High fifteen wrote: "Hmmm, the one's by me have windowed doors, and with our weather I'm not sure if it is the best idea to even have one made out of wood. "

The wood is treated and/or stained & c..."

Yeah, that's what I figured, and all the ones I see are painted. But I'm still not sure because many people around me that get patios (and other structures with external wood.) built with treated, stainded, etc., wood still often rot veeeeeeeery quickly. And many homes, new and old, around here (including ones I've lived in) have to have their windows replaced because they leak, etc.
Plus, I saw one that had water leaking into it during a rainy spell.


message 47: by mirabilos (new)

mirabilos High fifteen wrote: "So is it not free in that you have to pay to rent books from librarys, public or otherwise?."

It’s usually a registration fee, then fee per year (around 15–30 €) plus a fee per book (around 1 €). Some libraries have plans in which some amount of books is free. Some that do let kids pay for books have a plan with unlimited reading for a yearly fee (low enough for kids to afford from pocket money, thankfully). The public ones are usually larger but also more expensive than the church-run ones.


message 48: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Hammons Garcia wrote: "Am I the only one who hasn't seen any of this type of book shelves? will really love to have one in my home"
No, you aren't alone. The map of these little shelves shows in my town three, but they are inside health and human services government buildings which are not open at the times I'm able to see them.


message 49: by Dr. Fiona M. Clements-Russell (last edited Nov 17, 2018 07:04PM) (new)

Dr. Fiona M. Clements-Russell Since the age of mobile (cell) phones made the iconic red public pay telephone boxes in the UK almost redundant, many villages have adopted them to this new use. They have become a new source of transferring important information, but now by the written word, rather than the spoken word! Many small communities decorate their own ex-phone box with things like pot plants, small artworks, and other inspirational and quirky things, so they are not simply old telephone boxes, now crammed with shelves of books! I think it is a wonderful idea, and I hope it can continue as a valuable resource to readers of all ages.


message 50: by mirabilos (new)

mirabilos Dr. Fiona M. Clements-Russell wrote: "Since the age of mobile (cell) phones made the iconic red public pay telephone boxes in the UK almost redundant, many villages have adopted them to this new use. They have become a new source of tr..."

My city alone has at least two British red telephone boxes rededicated to open libraries.

And that in a country whose native telephone boxes are yellow and nowhere near British.


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