Are you looking to pick up a couple new books this summer? Before you head to the bookstore and buy something new, keep an eye out for Little Free Libraries in your neighbourhood! Little Free Libraries are collections of books which are housed in public bookcases. You may find these bookcases in public spaces such as parks or outside commercial buildings, or even in your neighbours’ yards.
There’s a chance you may have come across these unique structures in the past. Perhaps you have been unsure about how they work or if the contents of the bookcase are actually free to take. After all, if you are not too familiar with the concept it can feel quite strange to grab a book without signing it out or paying. Rest assured, these public bookcases are filled with books that are completely free to take – no strings attached!
While some public bookcases may be unmarked and unaffiliated with any organization, bookcases which are branded as Little Free Libraries are registered with the Little Free Library non-profit organization. Little Free Library promotes neighbourhood book exchanges in order to create a sense of community and place.
There are over 90,000 Little Free Library public book exchanges registered in 91 different countries around the world, resulting in a significant increase in book accessibility!
How Little Free Libraries work
Little Free Libraries are quite simple. They can be summed up with this one sentence:
Just like any other book exchange, there are no due dates, late fees, obligations, or rules associated with taking a book from one of the public bookcases. Once you find a book that you are interested in – it's yours! Of course, you may leave a book behind in return, but it is not necessary. Nor is it necessary to take a book if you’re more interested in donating one of your well-loved books to a Little Free Library.
Little Free Libraries which are registered with the organization may be located on the Little Free Library World Map which contains the GPS locations of the various Little Free Libraries around the world. If you are interested in finding one near you, check out this super handy map!
Why the Little Free Library movement matters
So you might be wondering “what’s the point in a Little Free Library when we can just use regular old public libraries instead?” Well, aside from the obvious benefits such as the ability to keep books, give away old books you no longer want, and the lack of membership requirements, Little Free Libraries are a fun way to build and contribute to a sense of community.
There’s something pretty cool about recycling books within your community. For one, Little Free Libraries give you insight into the interests, hobbies, and favourite book genres of your fellow community members. After all, all kinds of books can be added to Little Free Libraries whether it be a cookbook, how-to, coffee table book, kids titles, or any genre of literature!
Another benefit of Little Free Libraries is that they are likely to be located right in your neighbourhood, meaning that you might come across great books when you least expect it. Unlike when you go to a regular library specifically to take out a book, you might unexpectedly come across a Little Free Library while strolling through your neighbourhood. A simple evening walk may result in you finding your next favourite book!
In fact, my husband A.J. just finished reading one that he came across and was meaning to read. Now that he is done with it, it will go back into the neighbourhood circulation of the Little Free Libraries in my community.
In a similar vein, Little Free Libraries which are located in people’s front yards are great at facilitating social interactions between community members. If your neighbour is outside, why not stop for a chat with your neighbour while picking up or dropping off a book?
On the other hand, Little Free Libraries can allow for social interactions to be avoided. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is nice to have the option to be a part of a community-based book exchange while staying distanced - and outdoors. Now, choosing to go the contactless route doesn’t have to make your participation in the book exchange any less meaningful. These simple social interactions are a part of the fabric of society and have become all the more important as we have had to remain physically distanced from one another.
How to start your own Little Free Library
The Little Free Library gives you the five main steps that are required in order to start your own Little Free Library in your community.
Step 1: Identify a Location and Steward
Little Free Libraries should be placed in locations which are easily accessible and popular locations within the community. For example, locations near public parks are usually a good idea. Just make sure the space you choose is legal and safe! Of course, you can always place one in your yard as well.
Each time a Little Free Library is set up, a steward should be appointed. A steward is someone who promotes and maintains the library.
Step 2: Purchase or Build a Bookshelf
Of course, you will need a public bookcase to house your Little Free Library. You can get as creative as you want with these bookcases! There are plenty of DIY’s online (check websites like Pinterest) that you can get inspiration from. If designing or building isn’t your forte, you can also purchase a bookcase through Little Free Library’s online store.
Step 3: Register your library
If you are wanting to go the official route, it is important to register your library through Little Free Libraries. This will connect you to a network of support and benefits.
Step 4: Build support
After your bookcase is all set up, let your friends, family, neighbours, and community know that it's there! This will help encourage the exchanging of books in your area. Consider spreading the word through flyers, social media posts, or word of mouth.
Step 5: Add your library to the world map
If you are registered with Little Free Libraries, you can join the Facebook group for registered stewards to share your successes, tips, and ideas with fellow stewards.
Little Free Libraries are small tokens of community, but they can be an important source of access to reading material for people as well as a way to show others how important it is for everyone to be able to have access to books. Besides, I don’t know about you, but I love browsing for a book of interest when I come across one of these Little Free Libraries, you never know what treasures are out there waiting for you!
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