For Mother’s Day, I asked for a Little Free Library. My husband told me he looked into building one himself, but it seemed like a lot of work. Instead, he did everything through the non-profit organization, Little Free Library.
Here, I’ll break down everything we did to open ours step-by-step.
What is a Little Free Library?
A Little Free Library is a free book-sharing box where anyone may take a book or share a book, but you do not need to share a book in order to take one. You also don’t need to formally check out the free books like you would at your local library.
If you take a book or two from a little free library, you should try to bring some to share to that same library, or another in your area, if you can.
For more information about opening your Little Free Library, click here.
How to Open a Little Free Library
I’m going to share both my experience mixed in with recommendations from the Little Free Library. To see my process from start to finish in just 30 seconds, check out the reel I posted on Instagram ar @ChristinaAllDay.
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1. Identify a Location and LFL Steward
First, decide where you can legally and safely install the library. This depends largely on where you live and if you’re a property owner. If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, you need to get permission from them. I also suggest reaching out to the city you in live to ensure it’s okay and you aren’t in violation of any city codes. (I did this twice, but no one ever got back to me, so I just went with it!)
The location should also have a lot of foot traffic and be highly visible to anyone nearby. Mine is in my front yard at the end of my driveway facing the driveway – a perfect place for neighborhood book exchanges!
Then, identify at least one person to be the steward or caretaker. Usually, this is the person who wants the Little Free Library and starts the process of opening it. This person ensures the library is stocked with books, remains clean and organized, and promotes the library to people living nearby.
2. Build or Buy the Little Free Library
You can build your own Little Free Library following any design you like. If you are a hardcore DIYer and really good at carpentry, then this may be a project you find fun. I love to follow the LFL Instagram page to see the creative things people are building and how they’re decorating them. You can also find someone locally to build your LFL.
We purchased our library through the Little Free Library online store. In the store, there are a variety of designs to choose from. If you do this, your LFL is automatically registered and will come with a charter sign included. If you do buy one from the organization, you will also need to pay for shipping, so that’s something to keep in mind. For this, I paid about $500 in total.
After I received the library, I needed to paint it to protect it from outdoor conditions. I used the same colors as my house on the outside and on the inside, I used a stain to bring out the wood.
My husband took the lead on making sure it was secured in the ground. The library came with installation instructions. He dug a hole two feet deep, put the post in, then secured it with a bag of cement. This part is a lot easier than it sounds. You just dump the cement powder in the hole around the post, pour water on top, let it sit long enough to harden, then fill the hole in with dirt. After that, we planted some flowers around it and placed stepping stones from the sidewalk to the library door handle.
3. Register Your Little Free Library
When you register your LFL, you get access to a network of support and benefits, like an official charter sign printed with a unique charter number. As I mentioned above, libraries purchased online are automatically registered and a charter sign is included with the library and will ship separately from the actual library and post it sits on.
One of the most popular benefits of registration is the option to add your library to the world map. This is a great way to not only find Little Free Libraries in your area but also to connect with other stewards. I sent an email to the only other library steward in the city I live in to chat about her experience. She was so lovely in her email response and so excited to have another FLF steward nearby.
Around this time, you should join the Facebook group for registered stewards to share tips and ideas. You can’t join until you have a charter number, so make sure your LFL is registered first.
4. Promote Your Little Free Library
Now, it’s time to get your community members involved and build community with people who share a love of reading as you do. To do this, you can create little notes and put them in the doors of the houses in your neighborhood. (I’ll share the one I made on Canva below.) You can also post about it in your local Facebook group, and let local journalists know.
You can also create invitations and hold a grand opening ceremony and invite your neighbors to kick off the library opening! You can play this up with balloons and even have a ribbon-cutting with snacks and exchange books. The more people who know about your library and support it, the better.
I suggest waiting until the library is open to post it to the world map. You can always go in and make edits, but you’ll want to make it easy by going in there once when you have pictures of the final product open for sharing!
We opened our library Memorial Day weekend, so it was fitting to tie red, white, and blue balloons around the base of the library to draw attention to it that weekend.
6 Little Free Library Ideas for Stewards
If you want to become a Little Free Library plan, it’s fun to brainstorm some ideas as a LFL steward. Here are some of mine:
1. Put a guest book inside your library so people can leave notes.
I started mine off with a note on the books I like to read. Then, the neighborhood kids turned it into a bit of a card catalog by noting which books they were taking out of the library and sharing. I think it’s cool to see who is visiting and what they’re using the LFL for. You’re not going to see all the activity and know everyone who stops by, so this guest book offers a great opportunity to follow along.
For mine, I just bought a notebook at the Dollar Tree and taped a printed design on the front cover, inside cover, and back cover. (By the way, the Dollar Tree is a great spot to buy books to start your library off if you don’t have a box of books at home.)
2. Place a chair or bench beside the Little Free Library.
I do not do this but have seen others do this. I suggest chaining the chair or bench to something sturdy. You don’t want anyone stealing it if it’s not attached to your property. I’ve heard stories of people taking the libraries themselves. Sometimes it doesn’t happen maliciously, but if someone sees something free standing that can be picked up and walked away with, they may think it’s trash and there for the taking.
3. Secure your library.
I don’t just mean make sure it’s not going to go anywhere like I touched on in my last point, I mean make sure you can monitor what happens at your LFL just in case something negative does happen. Whenever you put something in your yard for public consumption, you risk the chance of someone ruining your fun by vandalizing the library or taking all the books out in one visit. I have a Ring doorbell and my library is in view of my doorbell camera, so if anyone tries some funny business, I will have it on record. Remember, if it’s on your property, you have every right to keep an eye on it however you see fit.
4. Stamp the books inside.
I had a stamp created that says something like, “This book passed through my Little Free Library”. People stamp their books for a few reasons. Remember those people I mentioned who may try to take the fun out of it? Some do it so those people don’t take the books to resell them. I think it’s cool to stamp them because, in my mind, the book will end up at another Little Free Library out of state and will be stamped again and it’ll act as a book passport that would be pretty cool to see.
5. Decorate the library and space around it.
I mentioned planting flowers and placing stepping stones around my LFL, but there is so much more you can do! You can paint it fun colors, decorate the sides with artwork, and even make the library itself a unique design. For cool ideas, follow @LittleFreeLibrary on Instagram. Personally, I like the ones that look like the house.
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6. Make it an event with your neighbors.
If the balloons didn’t give it away, I filled my neighbors in with these cards letting them know what that new box on a post was in my front yard. As mentioned above, you can also tie balloons to your LFL, host a grand opening with snacks, etc. This is also a good indicator to know what kinds of books may be popular – adult romance, young adult, young children books, etc.
A Little Free Library builds community, sparks creativity, and is great for readers of all ages who are happy to practice the honor system in exchange for a good book. How are you sharing your love of books and where are you finding little libraries? Find me on Instagram at @ChristinaAllDay and let me know. If you’re a book lover, make sure you check out this post on how you can read more books.