You may have seen some Little Free Libraries around on the internet or perhaps even in your own neighborhood. What are they, and how do you start one?
The Little Free neighborhood library movement started in 2009 with Todd Bol. He built a little library to honor his mother. She had recently passed away and was a lifelong book lover and a school teacher. His initial design was a wood structure that looked like a one-room schoolhouse. Bol had a goal to install 2,500 Little Free Libraries around the midwest. As of today, there are more than 100,000 worldwide.
A Little Free Library can be any shape or size. It is up to your own imagination and creativity. The Little Free Library website has kits and plans you can select from. You can even purchase them pre-made on Etsy. I started a Little Free Library, and it was made and painted for me by my husband and kids from a used kitchen cabinet that they found.
The intent of a Little Free Library is that any passerby can select a book for free if they leave a book. That way, the library remains fully stocked. However, Little Free Libraries have been made into Little Free pantries or blessing boxes people can help those in need by stocking a box. The whole idea of the Little Free Library system is to provide for the common good and give 24-hour access to books to those that do not have them. One in three kids living in poverty does not have any books of their own. A Little Free Library could change that and allow those kids to feel the joy of reading.
The person who oversees the Little Free Library is the steward. The steward is responsible for the upkeep and care of the library and the selection within their library. I have decided that in my Little Free Library, we will primarily have children's books. I decided to do that because they are smaller and I can fit more into the library. Because of that, it made the library's location very important that the kids who visit are safe. I didn't want them to stand in the street to access the library or be in danger. Our library is located on a post close to our front door so that anyone can safely access it. Anything negative would be caught by the camera on our doorbell. Little free libraries are generally welcomed by communities. Before installing one, you want to make sure you are following any laws or codes that your city or state may have.
After you have the basic set up arranged for your Little Free Library, you can register it online. On LittlefreeLibrary.org, you can pay a registration fee to receive an official plaque to adhere to your library and a charter number so you can sign up to be part of the interactive map of libraries they have online. If you want to visit a Little Free Library, you can search the map for those located in your area.
There are resources for stewards to order books at a deeply discounted rate so that the books in your library will remain fresh and new to those patrons that stop by.
There are also a lot of resources and ideas on how to publicize your library. There are groups on social media and tons of ideas to promote your library to your neighborhood. As a coincidence, I received my library in early 2020, and I put it out just as the COVID-19 quarantines started. Libraries and schools were closed to the kids in my community. I promoted it on the neighborhood Facebook page and reached out to people for donations of books for kids. It has been fun to see different families come by and exchange out books, and to see how the inventory of the library changes on its own even when I don't see it. It helped give the kids something to do after a long day being stuck in the house to walk over and exchange a book, and I couldn't be happier that we did it.