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September 8, 2017

How to bring a Little Free Library to your community

Photo sourced from Little Free Library #2621, Mountlake Terrace, Washington

In my vision of a perfect world, a community library would be found on every street corner. In this world, kids would not only have access to free books, but they could find them steps away from their own homes.

While walking to the Reading Partners office on my first day of AmeriCorps service, I came across a small wooden bookshelf on the side of the road, stuffed with books. Now, as I pass this bookshelf on my commute to and from work every day, I notice its selection is constantly changing. It almost feels like it was destiny for that small library to be plotted alongside my walk to an organization that contributes to the same mission of making reading accessible through community support.

The Little Free Library movement

The nonprofit organization behind these innovative roadside libraries, Little Free Library, has built an expansive network of over 50,000 libraries across more than 70 countries. While the organization does work to maintain a record of libraries built, each individual library is entirely managed by a community member. These community members, referred to as “stewards,” organize the charter with Little Free Library and supervise their individual location.

How to make a Little Free Library for your neighborhood  

Library #6357, Sandy Springs, Georgia

Photo sourced from Little Free Library #6357, Sandy Springs, Georgia

The best part about Little Free Libraries is that anyone can start one! If you find that your community doesn’t have a local branch, or even just that it could use more, here are the steps you need to follow to bring a new Little Free Library to your neighborhood.

1. Find a location for your library

Of course, the location is key to making the library a useful resource for your community! You want your library to be easily accessible and in an area where lots of people will pass on a regular basis. While choosing the perfect spot, it’s critical to consider local laws on building these kinds of resources. Some laws may limit building on public property, and a Homeowner’s Association might even prevent you from building one on your own property. The best way to avoid trouble is to reach out to local officials before settling on a spot. Little Free Library has prepared a useful document laying out some tips on who to contact and what kind of laws one might have to be mindful of.

2. Prepare your library

After organizing where you want to build your library, the next step is to prepare the physical space that your books will be stored in. There are no specific rules from Little Free Library about what your library should look like, so feel free to be creative! If you aren’t the crafty type, Little Free Library has an online store where you can order one of several pre-built options. Again, it’s important to consider local laws and regulations for size, structure, and location before putting together.

3. Register your library

Now that you’ve taken care of preparing the library, the next step is to register your location with the organization and add it to the world map of Little Free Libraries. If you purchase a library through the organization, a charter will be included. Otherwise, Little Free Library charges a one-time fee of $45 to join the network and its support services. If this cost is an obstacle, the organization has put together a useful list of tips about fundraising–because this library is a community resource, you’re bound to find supporters.

4. Raise awareness!

The last (and possibly most important) step is to raise awareness about your library! Even if your library is built and full of books, it won’t be widely useful until people know about it. This is another opportunity to be creative with your own individual approach; plan a kick-off event, or seek advertising opportunities with local schools. Even small actions like posting about your library on social media can be helpful. The main goal is to spread the word in any way possible, so tell everyone you know about it!

Other ways to promote literacy within your community

A volunteer with a student

While a neighborhood filled with libraries sounds like a dream come true, the reality is that many people might not have the time to take on the responsibility of managing one. If you can’t see a Little Free Library fitting into your schedule, remember that there are plenty of other ways to promote literacy within your community. For example, you could put aside some time in your weekly schedule to volunteer with your local library or become a volunteer reading partner for a student in need. Even modest donations enable literacy organizations to continue their work.

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