May 15, 2016

Tips to Start a Little Free Library

You’ve probably heard about and seen Little Free Libraries popping up all over the world, nation, and your own community.  They were started in 2009 by Todd Bol in Wisconsin.  He made one as a tribute to his mother and now there are over 36,000 worldwide.  Little Free Libraries promote literacy, the love of reading, and create a sense of community as neighbors participate in a free book exchange - patrons simply leave a book and take a book.  My family started a Little Free Library in our neighborhood in April 2015.  As a teacher librarian, I put a Little Free Library outside both of my elementary schools in December 2015.  If you’ve ever entertained the idea of starting your own Little Free Library, here is my advice and suggestions to get you up and running.  

You’ll need to decide whether to buy a pre-made Little Free Library or make one yourself.  For my three Little Free Libraries, I bought them all at  I bought one of the ‘Essential’ model.  It comes put together with the exception of the door.  I had to assemble the door with the plexiglass and add items like the hinges, door knob, eye and hook latch, and a magnet for the inside of the door.  I’ve bought two of the ‘Cedar Roof Basic’ and I prefer this model.  It comes completely assembled (door and plexiglass included), but I did add a door knob and magnet for the inside of the door.  If you decide to build your own Little Free Library, there are building tips and guides on  

Once you have your Little Free Library, you’ll need to stain or paint it.  I stained the Little Free Library in my neighborhood to fit with our HOA’s ascetic.  For the Little Free Libraries at my schools, my students and I painted them with outdoor paint.  Each reflects the colors and spirit of each school building.  If you’re looking for ideas on how to decorate your Little Free Library, many can be found by doing a search online. 

You’ll also need to decide how you want to mount and install your Little Free Library.  For all three of my Little Free Libraries, I purchased a mount at and a 6 foot post at my local hardware store.  To protect them, I either stained or painted my mounts and posts.  You can find instructions on how to install a Little Free Library at with the mount I purchased, and step to make your own mount.  I suggest adding a bench nearby for patrons to comfortably read and enjoy books.

In order to legally use the ‘Little Free Library’ name, you’ll need to purchase an official charter sign with charter number.  If you buy a Little Free Library from, your library will come with an official charter sign.  If you build your own library, you’ll need to buy a sign online.  Once you have a charter sign with a charter number, go to and register your library.  This puts your Little Free Library on the world map and allows people in your area to find and access your library.  You can even include a picture and a brief summary.

Now you have your Little Free Library, but how do you acquire books?  You can get books affordably in many ways.  For my neighborhood library, I buy books on a budget at my local thrift stores and garage sales.  I also accept donations if someone approaches me and offers.  For the libraries located at my schools, I buy books with Scholastic Dollars earned from our book fairs.  Teachers and students have organized book drives for the Little Free Library, and I accept donations when anyone offers.  

You definitely need a starter set of books, but you will need to replenish books as you maintain your Little Free Library overtime.  One of the biggest misconceptions if that Little Free Libraries run themselves - people give a book and take one, so there is always a steady supply of quality books on hand . . . wrong!  It will take ongoing work and effort to maintain your Little Free Library and keep patrons visiting.  Join me for my next post on tips to run a successful Little Free Library.  

Best of luck starting your own Little Free Library!  They encourage community and promote literacy, but it’s most rewarding being a steward to a Little Free Library.  You will positively impact your neighborhood and it’s readers both big and small.  It’s a worthy community service that makes my librarian heart smile :)

1 comment:

  1. Jill,
    You're such an inspiration! I hope to see many more follow and you have laid out the steps so clearly!