With over 50,000 libraries in more than 70 countries around the world, chances are you’ve stumbled across a
Little Free Library before — you might even be a Little Free Library steward yourself. These adorable, birdhouse-style “take a book, return a book” free book exchanges have been popping up for years; inviting neighbors, friends, and even anyone just passing through to share their love of reading. In addition to being your friendly, neighborhood mini-library, Little Free Library is also a registered nonprofit organization — inspiring a love of reading in children and adults alike, facilitating the community-led exchange of millions of books across the world, supporting book access in areas where books and other literary resources are scarce, sharing tips and advice to Little Free Library stewards, and offering free or discounted books through LFL’s community partners.
But with so many Little Free Libraries out there, how can you
be sure your Little Free Library stands out — drawing readers in, and keeping them coming back for more? As a lover of Little Free Libraries myself, I’ve got some tips for you. Whether you’re starting your very first Little Free Library, or your current LFL needs a little spruce, check out these 7 tips for having the best Little Free Library ever.
Make The Design Of Your Library Unique And Inviting
Although each Little Free Library starts with the same basic idea: a birdhouse-style structure strong enough to keep your books safe from the elements, with a shelf or two inside for stacking some of your favorite and/or used books, there are tons of ways to personalize your own LFL. Paint color and design, of course, is a simple and easy way to make your Little Free Library your own. Maybe you want to consider giving your LFL a theme: something inspired by your favorite book or genre (Green Gables, anyone?) Or maybe your Library is geared towards your neighborhood’s youngest readers, and you want the design, colors, and decorations to reflect the types of books inside.
Oh, and don’t forget: if you want to use the name and logo of Little Free Library, be sure you’ve registered your LFL with the nonprofit, and have both your official charter sign and charter number on display.
Regularly Curate Your Collection
Even though your Little Free Library is designed to be community-curated, as the ultimate steward of your LFL, it’s your responsibility to make sure the quality of materials being traded back and forth is worthy of your readers. Sure, somebody might have once loved that waterlogged thriller, or used that well-worn textbook to ace Biology 101, but that may not be the message you want your Little Free Library to send. Also, make sure you’re freshening up your stacks regularly: removing any books that haven’t been “checked out” in a while and making sure the books you do share are of high (if a little well-loved) quality.
Have An Eye For Diversity
Unless you’ve specifically built your Little Free Library with a theme: say, exchanging only your favorite travel memoirs with your neighbors or curating your shelves especially the young readers in your area, then a great Little Free Library offers readers a lot of diversity (or, as much diversity as possible in a couple tiny shelves.) Try to include a wide range of authors and genres, bestsellers and classics, new books and old favorites, to make sure there’s something on your shelves for everyone.
One of my favorite things about sharing books I love with others is having the opportunity to also share
why I love the books that I do. Not so easy with a Little Free Library, unless you’re camped out on the lawn next to it all day long. To add a fun surprise and a personal touch to each of the books you personally include, consider tucking a short note into each book — maybe written on a bookmark or a library checkout card — that briefly tells the story of why you love the book and just had to share it. (Just avoid spoilers, obviously!)
Make Your LFL A Community Effort
Consider offering your readers the opportunity to organize a Little Free Library-inspired book club. A fun and easy way to elevate any LFL is to include library checkout cards in each book. At the top of each card, invite any readers who want to get together and discuss the book to write down their name and e-mail address on the card before returning the book to your library. After you’ve assembled a few readers, reach out to them! Your new favorite book club might be an e-mail or two away.
You could also consider making your LFL it's very own hashtag, and then ask readers to use that to connect with you — and each other — through social media.
Register Your LFL To Connect With Other Librarians
I already mentioned the importance of registering your Little Free Library with the nonprofit, and displaying your official charter sign and charter number — this is one of the ways LFL keeps track of the work their organization supports. But another added bonus of registering your Little Free Library is the opportunity to connect with other librarians and share your own steward story as well. Part of what Little Free Library does is connect LFL stewards from around the world to one another, sharing building tips, favorite books, and totally inspiring stories of community book sharing.
Last, but not least, make sure you’re a good patron — both of your own Little Free Library and any others you may visit around your neighborhood or across the world. Feel free to borrow from your own LFL (you never know when someone might drop off your next favorite read!) but also make sure you treat other libraries like you hope your own is treated. If you take a book be sure you return that book or leave another — if not right away, at least the next time you pass by. Happy reading!