You’ve seen the boxes around your neighbourhood. Many look like one-room schoolhouses. Others look like mini replicas of their owners’ homes. Since 2010, book lovers have set up more than 60,000 Little Free Libraries in 80-plus countries across the world, designed simply to be free exchanges that, according to Margret Aldrich, a media and programming representative with LFL, “inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity.”
Anyone can take or leave a book at any exchange, but if you want to set up your own Little Free Library, the LFL organisers recommend a few tips.
Figure out where you can place it, safely and legally
There’s a very small chance you’ll run into zoning laws like this boy in Kansas did. But if there are other Little Free Libraries already up and running in your area and, most importantly, you’re placing it on private property (your own or landowner-approved) out of the way of public foot traffic, you should be fine.
According to the LFL folks, “Every city that has taken time to scrutinise their zoning laws in regards to a Library has come out in total support of this literacy effort. There have been a few Libraries that have been relocated to better locations, but they were not shut down.”
If not you, name a steward, aka a caretaker, for the Library
In other words, someone who will keep an eye on the box, make sure it stays clean, and help promote it. Connecting with other stewards in your neighbourhood or city is a good way to not only get inspiration for yours, but can also provide you with excellent resources for assistance and advice, both in getting started and keeping the Library up and running.
Purchase or build your Library.
Handmade ready-to-assemble kits and pre-built book exchange boxes and posts can be bought from the Little Free Library shop. Cost ranges from $184 to $3,091 (for a six-foot-tall “Peace Pole” version), with all purchases supporting the LFL nonprofit.
If you want to build your own, instructions and plans are available from the LFL website – or you can just get creative. There aren’t any rules regarding what your Library looks like or how you decorate it.
According to Aldrich, “There are Little Free Libraries that look like everything from robots, spaceships and roosters,” to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts House. (We’ve got one here in Colorado that’s designed to look like Doctor Who’s TARDIS – which I think is genius, because whenever I look inside an LFL, it always seems to be bigger and holding more books than I’m expecting).
And for more inspiration, take a peek at these 10 über-cool designs (with open-source design guidelines and installation instructions) produced by New York City architects through a project by the Architectural League of New York and PEN World Voices Festival.
Register your Library
If you want to use the name Little Free Library, you must register your exchange and pay a $49 fee, for which you’ll receive an official charter sign with a unique number to attach to your structure, and a listing on the LFL world map.
(Note: if you purchase a kit or pre-built box from LFL, registration is included in the purchase fee.)
Share and celebrate.
LFL suggests sending out press releases and sharing news about your new exchange on social media, along with having a grand opening ceremony, packed with snacks and a ribbon cutting. I’m certainly not anti-festivities or food, but if this feels overwhelming in any way, I’m pretty sure the book lovers in your community will be able to sniff out the new site on their own, so maybe just grab a book, sit down and honour your new Library with a read.