Traverse City, MI
Small town ideas sometimes turn into stunning worldwide movements.
Long before the popular tiny house trend, were the Little Free Libraries. What once may have looked like playhouses for gnomes or really fancy mailboxes, we now know are charming, self-service lending libraries for books.
The first official Little Free Library was built in 2009 by the late Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin. Now there are more than 125,000 of these fanciful book houses in neighborhoods in 20 countries around the world. They operate on the take-a-book, leave-a-book honor system, but if you don’t have a book to leave, that’s OK, too.
Bol started the little library movement as a fun and simple way to connect people in a community and encourage reading and recycling. He saw them act as tiny hubs in suburbs or small towns that had no public libraries or gathering places that children, especially, could easily walk to.
“Kids reading and people reading to them, you know, it changes everything,” he said. “It changes the whole attitude of what is valued in a community. A Little Free Library is this sweet little nudge.”
Little Free Library operates as a nonprofit organization that provides guidance on locating, building and maintaining the little library structures which can be custom designed or purchased ready-built in various styles. Official Little Free Libraries must be registered with the organization and maintained by a steward.
Once registered, the libraries are displayed on a searchable world map on the LFL website. Use the map to find a Little Free Library near you.
The organization also lists sources of free books available to stewards to stock their book exchange boxes if book donations run low.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Little Free Library stewards converted their tiny libraries into places to share canned food and personal care and household items.
A few eye-catching Little Free Library creations:
Redondo Beach, CA
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
New York City, NY
Coeur d'Alene, ID
Video extra: Margaret Bernstein’s LFL Roadtrip