The Little Free Library: The Quiet and Powerful Movement

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for websites that offer free images that people like me (who are not so great at taking pictures) can use to spruce up their blogs, and do it legitimately. My search took me to a few websites that have free high-resolution photos. When I filtered my search on one of the sites for “books”, I came across this adorable picture of what looked like a slightly small room-like construction with a few books in it, and I was like “aww… that’s so adorable”.However, a closer look at the picture revealed printed letters “Little Free Library”. Curiosity got the better of me and I soon discovered that “Little Free Library” is more than just a small room look-alike with books in it. It’s one of the evidences of a powerful albeit quiet movement by the same name. It was started by Todd Bol as a tribute to his mother who loved reading. He built a small model of a classroom, mounted it in his front yard and placed a few books in it.

Within days, people in his neighbourhood were raving about it. This was the beginning of a powerful movement that has made its way across the world, even to Bangalore, India, in 2012. Through this project, people have been taking books and replacing them with others. It was soon being called interesting names like House of Stories and Habitat for Humanities. These little free libraries were encouraging people to read, and support others’ reading habits with the motto “Take a book, Return a book”.

What started off as a small tribute, has gone on to touch 36,000 neighbourhoods, with as many little free registered libraries having been set up in the 50 states of USA and 70 countries across the world. You can check out if there’s a Little Free Library in and around your neighbourhood with the help of this map on their website*. To my joy, I found one that’s relatively close to my workplace, and another close to home!

*In no way am I promoting the Little Free Library movement or the establishment of the libraries, I’m just sharing my serendipitous discovery of something as unbelievably powerful and essential as this movement).

Picture credit: Unsplash

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14 thoughts on “The Little Free Library: The Quiet and Powerful Movement

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  1. Thanks for bringing attention to it! I have a LFL (because I’m obsessed with all things books and literacy related). I love being a steward and it’s been a lot of fun to share a love of reading with our neighbors. My 5-year old loves to check the library and stamp all the books

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    1. Thats so adorable! It’s great that your son is involved in his own way in this!
      I’m so in love with the idea of the little free library..! It just makes me so happy to know that this movement has gained this much traction. 😊

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      1. 😊 thank you so much for letting me know!
        I’d really like to get around to making one in my neighborhood..
        Your library is really adorable. Did you get this library custom made or was this selected from the LFL catalogue?

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      2. alas, I am not very handy. My husband bought it for me from the site. However, I’ve seen other people take old cabinets, old newspaper boxes, and other old furniture and repurpose them into LFL. If you get one or make one and register it they will let you join the facebook site for stewards. It’s a wonderful group that gives lots of good advice and support. I hope you make one for your neighborhood. I can’t recommend it enough!

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  2. Sadly, my partner and I just moved away from a neighborhood where we found 7 (literally, SEVEN of these scattered amongst the houses around our block!) although there is one shaped like a little red telephone box at the top of our street in our new neighborhood. I also found one next to a frat house near my university, and pulled over into a used car lot just so I could show my roommate who had never seen one before. They are the most wonderful thing. I carry extra books in my car simply for swapping in case I see one while I’m out!

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  3. I learned of this movement in 2011. Of course, at that time I wasn’t aware what it really represented. In Germany it is a little different. In the 2 closest cities to me, 2 separated organisations built in public places 2 open bookshelves with the same initiative like The Little Free Libraries. I think I got over 30 books from there by now.

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