The Little Free Library: Books Bringing Communities Together

Maybe you’ve seen one: a small bookshelf, possibly shaped like a house, right off the sidewalk in a place people walk by often. Marked by a message such as “Take a book. Share a book,” these little contraptions are called Little Free Libraries, and there are more than 15,000 of them around the world. A Little Free Library is more than a place to find new books, though — it’s a movement.

Reading may be a solitary activity, but books bring people together. A Little Free Library creates a place where people can stop, take a look, see what’s there, and leave a book for someone else. When more people know about it, you’ll find neighbors stopping to chat at the library or thanking the person who put it out.

Little Free Libraries aren’t locked or protected, except from the elements. No one stops anyone from taking everything inside, but ideally, Little Free Libraries don’t become the targets of thieves and vandals. Instead, in a best-case scenario, they fill up with more and more books as the community takes part.

Running a Little Free Library is about more than putting some old books on a shelf. Swapna Krishna put out her own Little Free Library and noted, after she saw it through a successful year, that she’d put in a lot of effort and it really paid off. “I didn’t hesitate to pull books out and recycle them, replacing them with the nice shiny books I had around. And slowly but surely, I got my neighbors used to the fact that there will always be good books in the library. Even if, right that second, there was nothing that appealed to them, they could check back a few days later, and I would have put new and interesting books in. They trusted the fact that they could part with their good books, and they’d find something great in return.” Krishna’s experience is exactly what Little Free Libraries are all about: having people share the books they love simply for the joy of knowing someone else gets a chance to love the book, too.

While you’d expect Little Free Libraries to be pretty noncontroversial, they’ve run into difficulties with local zoning laws in several places. But in communities such as Shreveport, Louisiana, threats from city zoning against Little Free Libraries have only succeeded in bringing citizens together and changing laws to allow them to be used.

Want to find a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? Check out this map. Or follow Little Free Libraries on Instagram to see beautiful little libraries around the world. You can find info on setting up your own Little Free Library at littlefreelibrary.org.

Image source: Flickr