Supercharge Your Little Free Library
Take a book or pay it forward by leaving a book for someone in the future
Little Free Libraries (LFLs) are one of the largest book-sharing movements in the world. These small, wooden boxes have been appearing in neighborhoods everywhere and offer an easy book exchange for those looking to discover new reads and share some of their favorite books as well.
These libraries are useful because they offer books 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to those looking for something new to dive into. Little Free libraries function on an honor system. Basically, if you take a book out of the library for yourself, you’re expected to pay it forward by leaving a book for someone in the future to come across and take.
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History of Little Free Libraries
The legacy of Little Free Libraries came from a man in Wisconsin who modeled a wooden library post after a one-room schoolhouse. He placed this library outside his home as a tribute to his mother who was an educator who loved reading. He took this idea and grew it after popularity for this book sharing method spread across his community.
By the mid 2000s, Little Free Libraries had spread all over the country and many “charters” of these boxes were given out as the demand for these creative mini-libraries grew. By 2012, Little Free Libraries became registered as a nonprofit organization. Since then, Little Free Libraries have grown immensely. There are currently 100,000 Little Free Libraries registered in existence across over 100 countries in the world.
Inspiring Little Library Stories
These libraries are fun to stumble across and create because there is an understanding that each person in the community that contributes to adding their unique, personal touch to the library for others to enjoy. There’s quite a number of people that utilize these libraries to help spread messages, encourage diversity, and contribute to the community.
Sarah Kamya is just one example of someone using Little Free Libraries to promote culture and diversity by amplifying the voices of Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). She is a school counselor based in New York City who wants to make sure Black and brown children know they are being represented in literature. To carry out this mission of hers, Kamya dedicated herself to filling the local Little Free Libraries in her area with diverse books. Her hopes are that kids who happen upon these libraries will be excited to see something they not only feel represented in but are celebrated in.
These books are purchased personally by Kamya and funded through donations that go towards supporting Black-owned bookstores. Since the recent protests involving social justice for Black people, many have adopted similar mindsets as Kamya and have set out to create their own diversity-themed libraries.
The New Orleans Public Library has taken their library services a step further by partnering with local Little Free Libraries to maintain library posts around the city. There are over 200 Little Free Libraries you can find in New Orleans and a helpful map to show you where each is located. These libraries are a nice addition to the public library system that New Orleans oversees-it helps them to continue their goals of promoting literacy and love for reading while building a sense of community. These Little Free Libraries are some of the best “librarian-curated” collections out there.
How to Start a Little Free Library
Those looking to start their own Little Free Libraries will find it is a simple process. The Little Free Library site offers quick and easy ways to get started. Here is the overview for the process.
First, find a location to place your library that is safe and legal. Helpful tips for this search include choosing an area with heavy foot traffic that is visible to those nearby. Make sure to reference the world map of Little Free Libraries so you know which locations have already been chosen. Designate a caretaker for the library that is willing to dedicate time to promoting the library as well as keeping it organized and welcoming.
Next, obtain your library. This can be purchased or personally built.
Then, register your library with Little Free Libraries to get your official charter sign that highlights your library number. Registering also gives you access to a network of support as well as benefits like discounted books for your library.
Finally, spread the news and build support for your library. Share your new project with your community and let them know this library is open for book exchanges. Be sure to add your new library to the world map so that others know where to find it at.
Enhancing Your Little Free Library
There are plenty of ways to keep your library useful and fun for the community. From decorating it or making it the centerpiece of a day dedicated to literacy, here are some ideas you can incorporate to get the most out of your Little Free Library experience.
Choose an Unlikely Location
Many Little Free Libraries are located outside of homes or on streets in busy cities. While these are great places for people to access your library of free resources, you can also look to different locations to place a Little Free Library (or an extension of your current one!) Look for areas where people might need a book to help pass the time. For example, ask your local laundromats if you can utilize some of their space to house a small library of books. Most people passing through are there for longer periods of time and could enjoy a book to read while they wait.
Create a Day to Celebrate Your Library and Its Readers
Some people are so passionate about their Little Free Libraries that they have made neighborhood events that incorporate their libraries. One idea that has been implemented is to hold a Library Day for children going back to school. Encourage neighbors to set out their own temporary libraries in boxes or crates alongside your own and use it to welcome students back to the school year. This keeps you and kids excited about learning and reading.
Have a Themed Library
As stewards of your Little Free Library, you have the opportunity to fill it with books you are passionate about. Designate your library as a “kids books only” box or one focused specifically on various themes like books about diversity, books related to history, etc. You can also work with local organizations to help stock your books for different seasons or occasions. Maybe you decide to have holiday books stocked in the winter months or animal books stocked for certain months in partnership with local animal shelters.
Bright Surprises Everywhere
Little Free Libraries can be a joy for many people. Imagine a late afternoon walk back to your house from preschool, from campus, from work, from picking your child up, and you stumble across a distinct and friendly wooden box filled with books. These books may touch on made-up adventures, interesting facts, or topics you or your child have always wanted to explore but haven’t gotten around to. These Little Free Libraries instantly brighten someone’s day because they know that someone else in the community took enough interest in the library and the book they shared to pass it along to someone, to you.