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Little Free Libraries in All Sorts of Places

Local bookstores are becoming harder to find, but readers worldwide are helping ensure that books still play a role in making a community a great place to live

  • A purple Little Free Library is surrounded by wildflowers in Minneapolis.
    Minneapolis, MN | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    Take a Book, Leave the Flowers

    In big ways and small, Little Free Libraries similar to the one pictured here help make communities more livable. Learn why they exist, where they're located and, if you're so inspired, how to create one for where you live. 

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  • The original little library was modeled after a one-room schoolhouse
    Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    This Schoohouse Rocks

    In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one-room schoolhouse in honor of his mother, a former teacher. He put the little building on a post in his front yard and filled it with books to give away. 

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  • A Little Free Library in Austin, Texas
    Austin, TX | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    Once Upon a Time

    Bol's neighbors and friends liked his little book box, so he built more and gave them away. In 2012, Little Free Library became a nonprofit, and the idea grew into a global movement. 

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  • Two house-like Little Free Libraries, one colorful, one all-white, stand as neighbors.
    Enfield, Ireland | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    Books for Kids and Adults

    By the end of 2016, more than 50,000 Little Free Libraries of varying sizes and styles had been installed in all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries. 

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  • A young girl and a girl toddler sit on a brick path and read books in front of a little library.
    Phoenix, AZ | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    The Little Free Library Mission

    Little Free Library describes itself as an "organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world." 

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  • A young girl in St. Louis and a young boy in Calgary pose with Little Free Libraries
    St. Louis, MO | Calgary, Canada | Photos courtesy Little Free Library

    Books for Girls and Boys

    A Little Free Library can be made out of anything, including an old newspaper box. Interested donors can help place Little Free Libraries where they're needed most by donating to the nonprofit's Impact Fund

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  • Three children visit a Little Library in Mountainlake Terrace, Washington
    Mountlake Terrace, WA | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    Self-Service Shopping

    Initially referred to as Habitats for the Humanities and Houses of Stories, the name Little Free Library came about because that's what users were calling the book distribution boxes. 

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  • Two women look at books at a Little Free Library in Appleby, United Kingdom
    Appleby, England | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    The Little Book Swap

    As "Take a Book, Return a Book" free book exchanges, Little Free Libraries are like mini town squares where people can share books with neighbors. 

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  • A preschool-age girl holds a book about Clifford the Big Red Dog.
    Lawrence, KS | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    A World of Books

    Hosts (or stewards) are asked to register their structures for adding to the online Little Free Library world map. The book exchanges operate on the honor system. Readers may take a book without leaving one, but adding is encouraged. 

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  • Two house-like Little Free Libraries.
    Estes Park, CO | Sandy Spings, GA | Photos Melissa Stanton and Little Free Library

    Homemade or Ready-Made

    The cost to build a little library varies based on the materials and labor involved. Ready-made libraries range from $149 to $995, and kits are also available. A Little Free Library registration fee includes an engraved charter sign. 

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  • A little library called the Cherry Tree Children's Library
    Traverse City, MI | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    Custom Construction

    Library makers are encouraged to use their imaginations for how they want their book sharing structures to look. The Little Free Library website offers plans and tips for library builders. 

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  • A young girl and a girl toddler sit on a brick path and read books in front of a little library.
    Tuscon, AZ | Photo courtesy Little Free Library

    Books Bloom in the Desert

    Library stewards are encouraged to use their libraries for community activities, such as for a summer reading club, children's story time, a book club or holiday gift exchange. 

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  • A library-sponsored Little Free Library has seating for two.
    Pittsburgh, PA | Photo by Rebecca Delphia

    Giving Back

    Little Free Library's Action Book Club invites people to "read books on timely topics" and "take part in meaningful — and fun — service projects to benefit their communities." This library was created by a community garden volunteer. 

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  • A Little Free Library in Arlington, VA
    Arlington, VA | Photo by David Goodman

    Don't Forget to Shut the Door

    Oh, wait. The pulley and weight on this Little Library, built by an architect and his three young daughters, is the engineering for a self-closing door. Library doors do need to be closed to protect the books from wind, rain and snow.

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  • A little boy shuts the door of a little library in Minneapolis and a two-story little library offers up books in Bangor, Maine
    Minneapolis, MN | Bangor, ME | Photos from Little Free Library and Melissa Stanton

    Self-Serve for All Sizes

    Kids can be in charge of a library. Businesses and police or fire departments can adopt a library. Bibliophiles can share books — including, in the case of the blue library, those by a famous neighbor. (Can you guess who?) 

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  • The Bangor, Maine, home of author Stephen King features a red exterior, a turret and an insect-themed iron gate.
    Bangor, ME | Photo by Melissa Stanton

    A King's Castle

    Author Stephen King doesn't have a Little Free Library at his spooky, gated home, which is a fan attraction. If he's in need of a read or wants to donate copies of The Shining or Misery, he can take a short stroll to his neighbor's little library.

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