We have all come across Little Free Libraries: if you walk around your neighbourhood, you’ll very likely stumble upon a tiny house holding a bunch of books. The invitation is clear: take something to read, or leave something behind for others to enjoy.
The Little Free Libraries organisation helps people set up their own mini library, bringing free books where they are wanted. And while anyone can set up a Little Free Library on their own, there is much to gain from becoming part of the Little Free Libraries organisation: among other things, you’ll be able to use the Little Free Libraries name and map, making sure other people find your library and pay a visit, you’ll get a subscription to a regular newsletter with inspiring stories and special deals, access to a Facebook group which will provide amazing advice, resources, and invaluable tips, not to mention a sense of community.
When you register a Little Free Library you get a charter sign with an unique number; the money spend on registering the library is used to fund programmes such as Impact Library Program, which places little libraries full of books in underserved areas, and Read in Color, which brings diverse books to neighborhood Little Free Libraries, and amplifies BIPOC and LGBTQ authors.
Although we can call any tiny library a free one, the Little Free Libraries organisation goes further than just being a box with free books: it is a community created by people who love books, and a movement that is now spread out across all seven continents!
Back in 2013, Dr. Russel Schnell built his first little free library to fulfill a request for his daughter, after she had moved into a transitional housing area in St. Louis, Missouri. This library has been so well received by the neighborhood that she and her husband were given a St. Louis “Kick Ass” award in the same year.
In 2020, this Little Free Library was expanded into a free food pantry – you can check it out in this link.
Dr. Schnell went on to building a Little Free Library for his own yard, and he has since built 45 Little Free Libraries! It takes him about 40 hours to make one; he always starts with an old kitchen cabinet door and builds the rest from there, which makes each Little Free Library unique; they are weatherproof, and Dr. Schnell has made a rule of using mostly recycled material, with an exception for new screws, and sometimes hinges and fresh caulk.
Since each Little Free Library weighs about 70 pounds, and Dr. Schnell has travelled around the world for work, it became possible for him to carry a library with him on his trips and leave it in the care of friends, including in more remote places.
His Little Free Libraries can be found in places such as Mount Fuji, in Japan, an Aboriginal area in Warrnambool, in Australia, or on a First Peoples reserve in Maskwacis, Alberta.
The last installation is located in the South Pole, promising to bring some of the warmth and light that only books do, to the Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO) in which it is situated.
When he isn’t building Little Free Libraries, Dr. Schnell is working as an atmospheric scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and winning Nobel Peace Prizes (in 2007, for his work on the International Panel on Climate Change).
How cool it is to think that the same things which allow us to travel without going anywhere, are now being taken to the places they have taken us.
Little Free Libraries are also working actively towards diversity and inclusivity. Read In Color is a diverse-book program, and you can sign the Read In Color pledge to show your support for diverse reading!
Would you like to set up a Little Free Library in your community, or find the ones available? Check this link to read more about the project, and to see a map of all the amazing Little Free Libraries out there!
Here are a few posts our contributors wrote about Little Free Libraries which you may also like: