As a book lady, it has long been my dream to set up and steward an official Little Free Library for my neighborhood. There were a few in my old neighborhood, but there wasn’t one in our new neighborhood that we just moved to. I always thought that it was such a great idea. The concept is simple - take a book, share a book. Rather than recycling or selling books that families have outgrown or books that we as adults have already read and enjoyed, the idea is to pass them along so others can enjoy them. And it’s completely free. It’s like a freecycle program, but for books. In case you were interested in getting a Little Free Library started in your neighborhood, I wanted to share about how we went about it.
1. Recognize a need.
Upon moving to my new neighborhood, after jogging and biking almost all of the streets, I noticed that there wasn’t a Little Free Library to be found anywhere nearby. I confirmed this by checking the worldwide map on the Little Free Library’s official website. We also moved here during Covid while most libraries and schools were still closed, so I saw a dire need to provide some sliver of access to books for the residents, most importantly the kids, in my neighborhood. My plans started to take shape in my head.
2. Find a location.
I started to brainstorm where I would want to put a library. These libraries should be placed in high traffic areas, visible from the road and sidewalks. I had the perfect place in mind - right near the playground, basketball court, and neighborhood pool, which just so happens to be at the end of our block. I figured this would be perfect so I could easily check on this regularly during my neighborhood walks and jogs. Because the space I had picked out was considered “common ground” managed by our HOA, I had to seek permission to use the space and to determine if there were any rules surrounding installing our Little Free Library. I hopped on my neighborhood Facebook group and asked around and quickly got my answer. Not only was there widespread support in my community for the idea, but the HOA chimed in with their full support as well and gave me free reign to place the library.
3. Choose a Little Free Library.
While it’s absolutely possible to get creative and build a Little Free Library on your own accord (check out all of the ideas on their official website here - https://littlefreelibrary.org/build/), I don’t consider myself to be very handy and wanted a design and materials that would easily withstand the elements. I decided to browse the Little Free Library online shop https://littlefreelibrary.myshopify.com/ and picked out a finished composite style “easy care” model and screw-in post with topper. The term “easy care” was calling my name, as I wanted something that wouldn’t require regular paint or stain and would be well-protected against the elements AND would be fairly simple to install. Of course, choosing these options came with a cost. More on that next.
I happened to choose one of the most expensive options for our community’s Little Free Library and of course, the one I picked out was already assembled and super heavy to boot, so it came with significant shipping costs. To help offset my costs, I set to work fundraising a bit with the use of the Cards for a Cause fundraiser (yielding an up to 43% return on proceeds!) offered through Usborne Books & More and posted to my neighborhood group and my social media platforms to get some support. I got an overwhelming amount of support and was able to easily collect funds and arrange porch pick ups and drop offs of the card boxes for my eager supporters. After hitting my fundraising target, I ordered the Little Free Library and waited for it to ship. (Contact me for more details if you might also be interested in running a Cards for a Cause for your organization or cause or to fund your own Little Free Library project.
Before breaking ground, I had to make sure that the ground was clear to dig. I called 811, as it was recommended and submitted a work order ticket for the local utility companies to come out and check the ground for any underground lines that might interfere with our simple “digging” job. They came out within a few days and marked the ground with flags and paint for us to avoid and I got an email that we were all clear to begin our project.
Prior to leaving home to install the Little Free Library, my husband attached the library to the topper and the post and we selected a spot for the interior shelf and installed it, too. With my husband and my kids’ help, we loaded up a wagon and walked to our site with some simple tools including a rubber mallet, electric drill/driver, a level, and the included supplies (post, topper, library, adjustable shelving, screws). The screw-in feature made it relatively easy for my husband to break ground and use the rebar to screw the base into the ground, checking that it was level throughout the process. We then screwed the post into the screw-in base.
6. Stock it with books.
Being a book lady, I have a regular stream of access to more free and discounted books than I know what to do with, so upon recently cashing in on some personal host rewards, I picked out some best sellers for varying ages to be added to the Little Free Library with the neighborhood children in mind. I left some space in the library for some community members to add books that would cater more to adults, especially. I will continually add with fresh Usborne books and Kane Miller titles as the need arises. While my primary goal is to have lots of book access for kids books, I would like to see a nice mix of both adult and kids books stocked in our community’s Little Free Library.
7. Register the Little Free Library.
Because I ordered my library directly from the official Little Free Library online shop, it came with a charter sign that was engraved with a unique charter number. If you build your own, you will need to order a sign to be a part of the official Little Free Library community and in order to get official steward benefits including Facebook support groups, email newsletter, access to discounted books to keep the library stocked, and an opportunity for your Little Free Library to be recognized on the world map. That was my next step - to visit the website https://littlefreelibrary.myshopify.com/collections/charter-signs and complete an easy online form to be added to the world map. I was able to share a few details about the story behind our Little Free Library and this information will display next to our library on the map, once it’s added! Easy peasy!
8. Advertising it!
As I mentioned before, there was an outpouring of community support for the Little Free Library. I’ve updated stakeholders along the way in my neighborhood Facebook group from my initial idea, to fundraising updates, to when the library arrived at my home, to our official groundbreaking. I plan to continue to post about the library and encourage others to share about it as well to spread the news to our community about the new book exchange. A number of people have offered to help me keep it stocked with books, too!
9. Regular upkeep.
As the Little Free Library is conveniently located just a block from our home right on my regular walking and running route, it will be super simple for me to check on it regularly to be sure that it is well-stocked, organized, and in good working order.
And that’s it! While it was a process to get our Little Free Library set up, it was a relatively simple process and I’m eager to be embarking on this literacy journey with my family to make a positive impact in our local community. If you would also like to set up and steward a Little Free Library in your community, I hope this post helps you! Reach out with any questions you may have and I’d love to help!