Little Free Libraries: One Book and One Community at a Time

 “To be caught up in the world of thought – that is to be educated” (Mary Webb, 1924).

The Little Free Library was born in 2009, when a Wisconsin man built a small replica of a schoolhouse, in memory of his mother who was a teacher who loved to read, and he installed it on a post outside his house. Todd Bol was inspired to create his little free library by the philanthrophy of Andrew Carnegie, who financed the building of over 2,500 libraries in the 19th century.

 As school children, we learned about Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in America in the 1800’s, who not only built libraries worldwide, but also gave the land and construction money to build Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Carnegie came to America from Scotland as a poor young man, made his fortune in steel manufacturing, and then gave away nearly all of his vast fortune to establish foundations and projects in research, education and science throughout the world. Many are still in existence

In a few short years, Bol’s idea of Little Free Libraries has caught the public’s fancy, and little free libraries are appearing in coffee shops, residential neighborhoods, churches, train stations and bus stops in rural and city communities throughout America. By February 2015, Little Free Libraries had grown to over 25,000 in many countries throughout the world, including Sri Lanka and India.

“Books are the carriers of civilization” (Barbara W. Tuchman, Authors League Bulletin, 1979)

Todd Bol’s inspiration to create his little free library is yet another contribution paid forward for the benefit of individuals and communities worldwide…promoting literacy and learning…and possibilities for living.

Books …allow us to learn to sympathize with (others),… (and) to learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn’t been able to see before” (Katherine Paterson, The Horn Book, 1991)

The memory of being read to, is a comfort I carried with me to adulthood.  One of the greatest gifts my Mother gave me and my sister and brothers was a love of books. Our adventures with books began early. She weaned her babies from the breast by reading to them, and she took her children to get their library cards when they could walk.  Research suggests children who read perform better in school.  And a child who has difficulty reading has significant handicaps in life.

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child” (Mary Ellen Chase, Recipe for a Magic Childhood, 1952).


.“Books, to the reading child, are so much more than books – they are dreams and knowledge, they are a future, and a past” (Esther Meynell, A Woman Talking, 1940)

Books introduce us to far away places, occupations we might never have understood, cultures and new knowledge that enrich our lives.

Our neighborhood installed a Little Free Library this Summer in our Spring Park community.  We are still learning to use and value our little library. If you want to build one in  your neighborhood, this is what we have learned so far about making our little free library a learning and recreational resource for our families::

  • Consult the international web site for information on building a Little Free Library.
  • Identify a neighbor who is willing and able to build the little library
  • Install library for maximum accessibility by members of the community.  Our neighborhood installed our LIffle Free Library on a post at the community pond and park near street access and the walking trail.
  • Identify a neighbor to serve as the neighborhood librarian (weekly check to add or remove books)
  • Register your library on the web site and order an official Little Free Library sign
  • Set community guidelines for operation of library: Ours simply says
    “Take a Book!  Leave a Book! Share a Book!  Books for adults and children should be suitable for a community of families. Books  in the Little Free Library change from time to time as new books are added, and some return back to be re-circulated. Books will be retired to another neighborhood after a period of time in our own library.”

In  some communities,  the availability of the Little Free Library has spawned books clubs, reading tutors for children, writing groups, and relationships with regional public libraries.

Little Free Libraries hosting books… free and accessible…passing it on…. sharing neighbor to neighbor…community to  community.

“Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier” (Kathleen Norris, Hands Full of Living, 1931)

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

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