If you've never heard of Little Free Libraries, they are small libraries that people all over the world create for their homes and businesses for the public to access. People can leave a book or take a book for free, as a book exchange.
The first time I ever saw a Little Free Library was at a local park. I saw this box that looked like a little house on a stand and went over to it out of curiosity. When I read it, it say "take a book, leave a book" and had a charter sign that said "Little Free Library." It was filled with used and new books for people of all ages. I was taking a walk with my daughter who was 1 at the time, so we found a "new" book for her to take home.
Ever since I saw that library, I wanted to create my own because I thought it was such a fun idea, but I lived in a townhouse and wasn't allowed to have one. We moved into our house in the summer of 2020 and this past spring I was able to finally create my own Little Free Library for everyone to enjoy.
Choose Your Style
Little Free Libraries can be made out of ANYTHING, yes, anything. I have seen people make them out of old clocks, an oven, and even old coolers. You can choose whatever you want to make your own library. Their website has kits available for purchase for the traditional cottage and shed styles, however they can be costly. I wanted the look of these cottages, but with a cheaper price, so I started brainstorming.
I googled looking for waterproof boxes, box kits, and even blueprints to build my own out of scrap wood, but I wanted to make sure that it would be sturdy and not leak water. Then I came up with the idea of searching for dog houses. It was the right idea, but they were obviously very large, so I thought to myself, "what about an outdoor cat house?" It was the perfect solution. I found this cat house that matched my house colors perfectly and it was a fraction of the cost.
This is the fun part, customize your Little Free Library. Whether you want it to be simple or colorful and whimsical, you can make it look like whatever you want. I wanted something simple that matched my house, so I kept it blue, but I did add to it. I actually absolutely love the whimsical and creative libraries I have seen online and they are very eye-catching when you see them in public.
This is something you can have your kids help out with. Have them paint, use stencils, and draw on your library. You can seal it with a spray sealer so it's protected from the elements.
For my library, I decided to make a few changes to the existing box. I moved the hinges so the door opened like a door instead of like a ramp. I also added an arm to the roof so you could easily open it to view the books and it would stay open. Finally, I used stencils and paint markers to write out "Little Free Library" on both sides, so people driving by could easily see what it was and participate in the book exchange.
Look here for some of the creative libraries from around the world.
Register Your Library
If you want your library to show up on the map so anyone looking for one can find you, then you'll need to register your library and get a charter number plaque. There are multiple options to choose from including getting a customized plaque, if you want to name your library. Once it's registered, your library will show up and if you ever move you can take it with you and change your address too.
You'll want to put some books in your library to start it off. Look through your books and your kids books and put anything you want to share with others in your library. If you don't have many books to share, that's ok, there are plenty of ways to get some books to fill it up.
Goodwill or Salvation Army: they often have lots of books and for very cheap. I've been to Goodwill when they put books in a bin and have a super sale. During that time I was able to get 8 books for $2.
Ask People: I went on Facebook and asked if anyone had books they wanted to give to the library. I saw people showing up and donating books on the first day and it was instantly filled.
Request Books from LFL: Little Free Library will post book request opportunities for stewards. Some of them are for certain states, but a lot of them are for people anywhere. The only potential negative is it can take weeks to months to receive them.
Pick The Right Location
After everything else it done, you have to choose a good location to display your library outside. You'll want it to be easily accessible for people and easy to see. I live on a main road so we put it in front of our front fence and anyone driving by can see it and see what it says. Depending how comfortable you are with having the public on your property, you can make a reading area next to it with a bench. Little Free Library's store offers accessories such as dog hooks you can attach to your post so people walking their dogs have a place to hook their leashes while they pick a book.
Announce Your Library
Once your library is all set up, announce it to your community! I posted in my town's Facebook group my address and some pictures of my library to let them know it was open and ready for book swaps. I had people there the first day, and since then I see people driving pull over to look through and trade books. It's fun seeing what books are left and taken by people. We don't have many kids books in there now, but the next time we do I'll take my toddlers out to pick a "new" book.