books · libraries

Little Libraries and Neighborhood Book Sharing

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In the corner of one of the neighborhoods near me, there sits a small nook where people can leave books for others to read and take books to adopt as their own. This neighborhood library is part of the Little Free Library system. Little Free Libraries are based on a simple principle; people can use them to exchange free books. Though the project only began in 2009, there are already 40,000 Little Free Libraries around the world, and the project is still growing.

The Little Free Library that I know is lovely, well-maintained, and always full of books. The reading options inside of it are equally appropriate for the community; there are popular thrillers, cozy romances, and picture books. Though the books sit close to the elements, I’ve never seen one battered by wind and rain. They are always in decent condition. The library acts as a lovely emblem of the warmth and community of its neighborhood.

Despite its strengths, the library is also in a place that doesn’t truly need it. The houses that surround it are among the most expensive in town, and the people who use the library could certainly afford their own books. I don’t begrudge the neighborhood it’s little library, but I wish that some of the housing areas with less access to books had a sustainable program like it.

Of course what I want for these other neighborhoods isn’t something that Little Free Libraries are prepared to do. I don’t want patrons who have few resources to feel obligated to leave a book when they borrow one, especially if they don’t have any books available. I suppose what passing my Little Free Library does is that it makes me wish that social infrastructure was better able to get books into the hands of everyone who wants to read. That might mean more funding to local libraries or it may mean that more alternatives to libraries should exist. Of course both of those options take time. And money.

So now you all know my secret. If a pile of gold appears in my bedroom tomorrow, I’ll set up scholarships, give funding to education and the arts, and I’ll work on making sure that people in all different types of neighborhoods have access to books whether it is through a public library, a little free one, or something else entirely.

Despite my criticisms of the Little Free Libraries, I love the spirit of them. I just wish I could figure out a way to make sure everyone could enjoy something like them.

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(And pardon my reflection in the top image. My arm says, “Hello.”)

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23 thoughts on “Little Libraries and Neighborhood Book Sharing

    1. They really are nifty things.

      As far as having one on your side of the Atlantic, I think that you could! As far as I know, people can set up Little Free Libraries anywhere (…as long as the neighborhood allows it.) Maybe you could start a book revolution, who knows? 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Kristen, thank you for bringing this simple–yet invaluable–idea to readers and writers everywhere. I believe I saw something similar done a decade or two ago. Such a plain and simple effort to offer the magic of books freely to anyone interested. What a fantastic ideal and undertaking, yet so simple or “primitive” when you think about it. A sheltered, waterproofed book box, people freely sharing books they’ve enjoyed with others, children escaping the doldrums of their everyday lives to worlds beyond their farthest dreams–what’s not to like with this concept?
        Thank you for bringing this to our attention. It can be accomplished and spread far and wide within almost any community for a few bucks; or, free if some kind, reading soul wishes to take up hammer and saw and create a “mini-library” exchange in their neighborhood.
        What a fantastic idea, and what an opportunity for kids of all ages to benefit, grow in knowledge, and travel to faraway lands of adventure only their minds can transport them!
        Wonderful post, Kristen. Thank you so much! 🙂
        –Michael

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m always happy to share things like this, Michael! The concept really is wonderful, and it is so cheap to get one of these libraries started. They just require someone who wants to establish one.

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  1. Hello arm!! I read a lot about these but until recently have never seen them locally. However our local village shop has set up a similar project which is very popular and it is a positive reinforcement about books and hopefully bringing them into people’s lives who might not read much. Oh I love your philanthropic ideas – may that pile of gold fall your way!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I believe they tried that in New York and in less than a week the books were stolen and the box was torn down. It depends where it is situated. I think every school has a library and children are taken there once or twice a week to read or take a book home. What they really need is for people to volunteer to help with teaching children to read. It is a lovely idea though and would benefit all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These libraries definitely seem to be the sort of thing that are more successful in some places than others. You’re right that making sure that schools are well stocked with books is another way for kids to have access to reading materials.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! My husband and I are full-time RVers (we gave up our “sticks and bricks” house and now travel and live in our RV) and we’ve seen these in many places — including one at an RV park, another in a tiny community in Montana, sitting next to the front door to the local market (the tiny town’s tiny market has a tiny library — how cool is that?). To find locations, just check out this Website: https://littlefreelibrary.org/

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve decided that I’m not allowed to participate in these little free libraries because I’m a book hoarder. I’d want to take books, but not put any back. So, I’ve insisted a ban on myself to never take a book from these libraries as cute and as amazing as they may be. Maybe I’ll just put a box in my backyard some day like this and use it for myself. :p

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Reblogged this on By the Wayside and commented:
    Love the idea of Free Little Libraries! I’ve seen little book exchange nooks at workplaces and train stations. My area also has a bookmobile that travels to many locations. But small free libraries nestled in neighborhoods with anytime accessibility would certainly be a nice thing! Read Kristen’s post to learn more….

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think there is something like that at our local hospital. The waiting waiting room for the surgery department, where I waited hours for my husband one day, has a leave one/take one table in a corner. You can find good things sometimes and share what you liked.

    Liked by 1 person

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