Little Free Libraries Bring Books to Your Neighborhood

First_Little_Free_Library_-schoolhouseWhat an innovative idea to promote reading. In Hudson, Wisconsin, in a tribute to his mom, who was a book lover and a teacher, Todd Bol built a miniature little red school house, stuck it on a post in his front yard, and filled it with books to share. Since its inception in 2009, ‘The Take A Book, Leave A Book’ movement, which took off especially in the Upper Midwest, has gone global.

The goal was to create over 2,509 Little Free Libraries to exceed the number of large libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie from 1883 to 1929. It also commemorated a courageous librarian, Miss Lucie Stearns, who between1895-1914 brought nearly 1400 little traveling libraries to different parts of Wisconsin.

IMG_4348_copyMy sister, Karen, told me about a Little Free Library (LFL) located a half a block from her house in Golden Valley, Minnesota. While visiting her, we ventured out on the coldest day of century because I couldn’t wait to see it. Under a cobalt sky, the snow-covered, rooftop of a dollhouse-sized hut, brimmed full of books. I would have loved to browse and pick up a book for my flight home, but my fingers froze merely posing for the photo. What an honor to discover that Karen had tucked a copy of my book, Home Sweet Hardwood into her neighborhood library.

I shared the gift of reading, a love passed on from my grandparents and parents, with my children. While growing up, my kids read under the bed covers, in the bathtub, and even à table. During dinner, they sneaked peeks at their books hidden under the dinner table to avoid their father’s scowling eyes. The ultimate taboo in a French family to focus on anything other than food while dining!reading on the lake

Though reading may seem like a lost art and books sales have dropped, surprising The Little Free Library movement is booming. All 50 states and 40 countries have been involved. Grass roots movements to bring books to remote parts of the world and help produce literacy in India and Africa have grown. Hudson High School (Wisconsin) students built mini libraries and shipped them to Africa where local Rotary Clubs installed them. LFL has also partnered with Going to School, an organization which brings books to schools in India. All across the USA schools are joining, like in Minnesota, where the Minneapolis School District, LFL, and local sponsors have combined to bring 100 Little Free Libraries to Northern Minneapolis.

As of January 2014, an estimated 15,000 Little Free Libraries exist worldwide. To find one in your neighborhood, consult the index. LFLs can be found in England, France, Italy, and other European countries, but as far I know none exist in Switzerland yet. However, if I can get past the bureaucratic red tape, I am building one in my front yard, modeled like a miniature Swiss chalet, natürlich.

Join the movement. Take a book, return a book, meet a neighbor, make a friend, build a library, create a community.DSCN1346_copy

In support of Little Free Libraries worldwide, I am giving away a copy of my memoir Home Sweet Hardwood to a commentator whose name will be selected in a random drawing. The winner will be announced next week.

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Posted in education, family, social view.


  1. Pat, I LOVE this idea. Since starting my Women Reading Across Cultures book group this year, I have lots of great and interesting titles but now don’t know what to do with the books once they are finished. My book shelves are already over flowing. I would love to either find a LFL or start one. Unfortunately, both my computer browsers tell me the ‘index’ link you provided in the article is not safe to open. Any other ideas? Thanks.

    • Much be a glitch at your end. Just go to the link Little Free Library and on that page you will see a map.
      I’d love to read some of those books on your shelf. Hey, when is your group going to study my book? Remember, you asked me to write a list of discussion questions for your book club and it is on the website waiting for your cross cultural friends.

  2. You can’t have enough books! and the free movement is here to stay. Tt the 55+ community where I live, we have a library maintained by book donations from residents, and it’s not clear that they’re returned regularly, but if people love to read, what the heck. And Bart’s Books in Ojai (OH high), CA has been open to the street for years:'s_Books

    • Never enough books…I totally agree. That said my books, stacked 3 layers deep on shelves, are taking over all living space. Thanks for the link to Bart’s books. And Happy Reading!

  3. Pat, I’ve been in hotels that offer a fairly decent-sized library with the same concept — and I understand it’s quite attractive. ‘Take a book, Lend a book’ is a wonderful concept — be sure to post a photo of your chalet, okay, because I think that sounds darling!

    • I have only seen a hotel library once, but I sure hope the idea takes off over here. I will be sure to post a photo of my Little Free Book Chalet.

  4. Hi Pat,
    I’d started a reply similar to Debbie from my phone, but I couldn’t get it out to you. We’ve been at hotels that have a basket that encourages you to “take one, leave one”. When in Mexico, we could even venture into Spanish novels (If we wanted to work hard to translate on vacation). Many times I gratefully sifted through the choices, after having finished my paperbacks for a trip, feeling kind of frantic to find SOMETHING!
    I love how a Little Free (Friendly) Library reflects its owner for a little while until its contents shift and morph with exchanges left behind. I guess you could say this is similar to Amazon making suggestions: “If you liked this book, you might also like this one!”
    I think My LFFL will need an upper floor and a lower floor for the little ones walking by.
    Sharing books and the love for reading is a gift that lasts well beyond the book itself. It offers connection.
    Thanks for a great post!

    • Oh, Amy, I can just picture your little 2 story free library with the lower shelf for the kids. With your creativity, I bet you could design a really charming, dollhouse-sized book hut. And like you said so well, “sharing books and the love for reading is a gift that lasts well beyond the book itself.”

    • Be sure to check out the Little Free Library website, Doreen. You might have one already in town. There are also instructions on the website on how to start and register your own LFL.

  5. What a great way to spread the joys of reading and lear’sning! A great tribute in a mother’s memory and I know your would take off as well, Pat. Great idea all around.

  6. Thanks for the very kind and informative post Pat. You did a fare amount of research that we do not always see. In about 2 weeks you will see a new simple Swiss type chalet we will be offering. We are also working with some YMCA’s to create a health literacy and exercise Little Free Library. Thanks so much for falling in love with Little Free Library. I am originally from Stillwater, MN. and now live in Hudson, WI. just across the St. Croix river. I would love a signed copy of your book sometime. Keep do great things for all of us. Todd the guy who built the first Little Free Library

    • Todd, I am so glad that you saw this so that I can thank personally for creating the Little Free Library. And it is such a wonderful tribute to your mom. Like her, I am a teacher and book lover, too. Anyway that we encourage kids to read is great. Absolutely LOVE your idea of working with the YMCA to create health literacy. My daughter is pediatrician in Minneapolis and gives books to her little patients. Both of my grown children live in St.Paul and if you read any of my past blogs you will know how much I love Wisconsin, my summer stomping ground. I will be happy to send you a signed copy of my book. Can you give me address where I should send it? And one day, I’ll also send you a picture of my Little Swiss Book Chalet!

  7. Wow, I just drove past one the other day and thought how very cool. It was the little house attached to a big tree in a front yard! Now I know what it is all about, thanks.

  8. Hi Pat, This is a wonderful movement. The first time I experienced such a thing, I was at the Paoli train “station”- a wooden platform with a folding chair. Here’s what I saw:/Users/kathleenpooler/Desktop/2013-02-22_13-19-19_273 Paoli library.jpg. If you can’t see the picture, it was a small wooden shelves with a dozen books and as sign above: Take one and leave one. I loved it!

    • Oh sweet, book browsing at the train station…a perfect idea. In Switzerland, condensed versions of newspapers are distributed for free in public places. The idea was designed to entice youth into reading the paper because, sadly, the industry is dying.

    • Sorry about all the typos and that you can’t see the picture..a small wooden shelf..and a sign..Must be Monday isn’t agreeing with me!

  9. sis,
    “Food for the Brain!”……Books, Books and more books! LOve this Blog and the memories that go with your pics!

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