Little Free Libraries and building community

When my husband and I came to California to house hunt, we had two days to look at 16 houses. One of the moments that stands out in my mind is passing by a Little Free Library on a street near one of the houses for sale. I got really excited, and I’m pretty sure my enthusiasm surprised both my husband and our agent. Any neighborhood that had a Little Free Library was more than all right with me.

Not familiar with the Little Free Library movement? Its basic premise is to share books within a community. People build a box to hold books, put it in their yard, and then their neighbors start sharing books. I love this!

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Exchanging books: The point of a Little Free Library

On Friday my husband reminded me of that Little Free Library by sending me an article about some small-minded folks who are hassling the owner of a Little Free Library. I read the article and immediately wanted to start building a Little Free Library of my own to stake in the front yard. Of course, I’d have to check with the homeowners’ association first (I recognize the irony). And, more to the point, I have no wood-working skills. So there went that idea.

My temper cooled when I skimmed the article’s comments, something I don’t normally do because, well … trolls. As I scrolled down, I saw a long comment from the director of marketing for Little Free Libraries. She asserted that most of these little neighborhood gems are not in trouble and pointed out the complexities of the specific (unofficial) library in question.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention in our own communities about how Little Free Libraries flourish, or stir up trouble, or bring neighbors together or bring out the trolls. We should know, and we should celebrate Little Free Libraries’ successes. If you read the first paragraph or two of the CityLab article, you’ll see why Little Free Libraries deserve positive attention and why they deserve our protection. They play a small part in creating community.

Little Free Libraries play a small part in creating community.

So to celebrate Little Free Libraries and get to know my way around my new community a little better, I drove around in search of Little Free Libraries near me. There’s a handy map of them all over the world, and I used the map and its more complete appendix to plan the places I would visit. The tour gave me a fun reason to learn my way around roads I might not otherwise ever see.

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Someone took a lot of care on the shingles for this cute Little Free Library

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A wide collection of reading material, but I was sad there weren’t any children’s books here.

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A happy yellow Little Free Library, this one with an asphalt shingled roof

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Yay for children’s books (especially Star Wars) and for adult lit books such as Toni Morrison’s Paradise, one of my favorite reads from last year

My favorite Little Free Library of the trip was this one for its whimsical decorations:

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Someone(s) must have had a lot of fun decorating this one.

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Not just books for adults and kids, but crayons and toys, too, along with a log book and a note pleading for the return of log book #1. Not cool, log book thief, not cool.

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I love that the octopus is reading two books at a time, both “classics.”

I encourage you to look at the map for Little Free Libraries to find some near you. Don’t have one? Consider building your own. What books would you most like to share in a Little Free Library?

Speaking of free books, Saturday is the last day to enter for your chance to win a free copy of The Flourishing Tree on Goodreads. I also need to figure out what to do with some copies of the book that arrived damaged—maybe add them to Little Free Libraries? What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Little Free Libraries and building community

  1. This idea does take some time but it is a fun rainy day project…Mom was a librarian for many years; first at Queen’s College (now University) and then at an elementary school. At the elementary school, she found that the disadvantaged kids loved having something of their own and often didn’t have books — this was long before READ to ME was around. So, she saved Christmas and holiday cards and found poems that worked with the art. Using the art on the card, she would cut off the greeting part and just write the poem on the back of the artwork. This way the child had a takeaway poem. It’s a lot of fun and the kids love it! Loy

  2. We love these…we have about 4 in our neighborhood, two which are for kids alone (and built at kids’ height, which is wonderful), and one down the street that you would love–it specializes in gardening books only! One of them is also organized by a poetry fan, and there is always multiple copies of a poem to take and slip into your pocket.

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