Little Free Libraries, Big Local Bonds
These free lending libraries are bringing communities together.
Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project
Earlier this year, I read about a man named Todd Bol who had put a little wooden box outside his Hudson, Wis. home back in 2009 – and started a movement. The miniature model of a one-room schoolhouse he built and stuck on a post was full of free books for the community to take, with encouragements to replace them with ones they’d already read.
His Little Free Library idea was inspired, in part, by Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries around the turn of the 20th century. And from 100 libraries (some of which Boll had made and given to friends) in 2011, the movement has since grown to 6,000 libraries in 2013 – and two million books shared.
Little Free Library isn’t just an exercise in book recycling; the ornate little libraries are themselves an example of sustainability. And you don’t need to make your own: The LFL program sells custom libraries online, for an average cost of $250 to $500, and makes them from recycled materials. It also offers plans for constructing your own.
Certainly, while the idea is good for the planet, a recent Washington Post article described how the free mini-lending library idea has been good for the community, too. “Those who have used the book houses say they offer simple joys: the thrill of an unexpected find, the abandonment of Dewey-Decimal stodginess and — most of all — the creation of a new community space,” writes the Post’s Robert Samuels. In urban areas, where neighbors don’t have front porches, said one resident, “This is how we interact.”
One keeper of a tiny library, Linnea Dodson, who planted a tiny library that resembles a British tollbooth – an homage, says Samuels, to British literature – says she has received notes of appreciation. A memorable note: “Thanks so much! This reminds me that there is good in the world.”
Have you seen a Little Free Library where you live? Find one on this map – or start your own.