Sprinkled around the world are little houses of joy for book lovers, hiding treasures waiting to be discovered—and the treasures are free. Just open the door and select a book.
The houses—known as Little Free Libraries—are the initiative of a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.
There are more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and 88 countries. Through these libraries, readers exchange millions of books each year, profoundly increasing access for bibliophiles of all ages and backgrounds.
Teacher Todd H. Bol created the first Little Free Library in 2009 to share books with his neighbors. The response was so overwhelming. Todd crafted a vision for a community-led grassroots movement. Todd built it in honor of his mother, a schoolteacher and lifelong reader. When he placed the structure in his Hudson, Wisconsin, front yard, Todd saw the take a book, share a book concept resonate with his neighbors, and he began shaping a vision to bring Little Free Libraries to the rest of the world.
After teaming with Rick Brooks, a community-minded outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Todd dreamed up a big goal: to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—one more than the 2,509 public libraries created by Andrew Carnegie.
In May 2012, Todd and Rick established Little Free Library as a 501(c)(3) organization. Today, there Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, including the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Ghana and Pakistan.
Your Little Free Libraries
Ruralite invited readers to share stories and pictures of their Little Free Libraries. We bring some of those stories to you here. If you missed the chance to share here, you can still share your story and photos on our Facebook page at www. Facebook.com/Ruralite, or on Instagram #RuraliteLFL. To find a Little Free Library in your neighborhood, or start your own, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org.
Remembering a Friend
The library in front of our house in La Grande, Oregon, is dedicated to the memory of Thelma Hansen, a resident on our street for more than 40 years. She owned a bookstore and was an advocate for reading. In July 2014, the opening of the little library was celebrated by a crowd of neighbors and friends, including two of Thelma’s daughters. My son, Zachary—who built the little library for me as a Christmas gift—was on hand for the installation. The books to fill the library were donated by many people. Five years later, hundreds of volumes for children and adults have been exchanged at the library. I think Thelma would be honored, as she loved books and did everything she could to promote reading.
— Carol Lauritzen
La Grande, Oregon
Our Little Free Library Story
We first encountered a Little Free Library while visiting our daughter in Edmonds, Washington. We thought it was a great idea, so our Little Free Library booksharing box was installed in our rural neighborhood in summer 2014. It is registered in the National Little Free Library organization, Charter No. 23054.
The theory behind Little Free Libraries is to “take a book, return a book.” My husband initially built a small house for all of our library books. Several neighbors helped with the painting—bright colors to catch the eye—installation and book donations for the Little Free Library. It was a neighborhood project.
After a few weeks, we noticed a little boy trying to reach the library door. I looked at my husband and said, “We need to build a children’s library.” He built a second house and installed it on a shorter post next to the adult section. Now the kids can reach the door latch and the books are at their eye level.
We decorate for the season or holidays. It is designed to make every age feel welcomed and encouraged to come take a look.
Kids on bikes are common visitors. Walkers, joggers, bikers, children, and dogs stop by to check it out. Someone has even placed a geocache in the library, and painted rocks decorate the ground nearby.
New books are picked up at the local library sales so books already read can be replaced.
There is a notebook in the library for comments and reviews. Several neighbors, including the kids, have said they appreciate the library. It’s a great place to meet neighbors and make new friends.
We have great neighbors and everyone seems to watch over the library and help maintain it. We encourage visitors to the neighborhood to check out the books and spread the word.
—Nancy and Mike Valentine
West Richland, Washington
Three Little Free Libraries— located along the Valdez Small Boat Harbor in Alaska—were created collaboratively by the Valdez Consortium Library and the city of Valdez Parks Maintenance Department, with permission from the city of Valdez Port Department. The libraries are stocked with donated books from the community of Valdez and maintained by the Valdez Consortium Library. The libraries are open late May to early September.
Community Center Look-a-Like
This is our Little Free Library in Alfalfa, Oregon. My husband, Mel, built it to look like our community center, which is where we placed it. We live about 15 miles east of Bend, where a lot of people do not have access to the public library, but like to read. I try to change the books frequently. I also try to include children’s books and sometimes movies.
—Diana and Mel Asher
Little Library Fills a Void
My daughter, Heather Davenport, was helping her grandparents deliver Meals on Wheels when she was introduced to the novelty of Little Free Libraries. Their route took them through several neighborhoods in the community. Her grandparents pointed out the libraries as they passed.
Heather was intrigued by the characteristics and unique personalities of each library. Inspired, she embarked on a scavenger hunt across town to visit other Little Free Libraries. She discovered there was no library near our home outside Bend, Oregon.
Heather wanted to make a library for our neighborhood. She scoured thrift stores for materials that could be repurposed and up-cycled to build the library. With the help of her father and grandfather, the parts were modified, painted and weatherproofed. Her vision became a reality.
She called out to family and friends for book donations. The shelves soon were stocked, and her Little Free Library was born.
Heather took care to place the library on a sturdy fence post in view of the road at a spot where it was safe to pull off. She adorned her library with lights to provide visibility and illumination during the winter. It did not take long before the library was discovered and the activity began.
Heather went off to college last fall but her library lives on. I have taken over as custodian of the library while Heather is away at school. Her brother brings books in from out of state to trade.
Heather continues to enjoy visiting her library when she is home on break to see what is new. She hoped the books would provide entertainment, knowledge, vicarious adventure and companionship to patrons of the library.
Imagine what stories the books could tell, beyond the print on their pages. Where have they come from? Where will they go from here?