How to Add a Little Free Library to Your Front Yard

If you’ve walked through a neighborhood recently, you might have passed by a small house-shaped box filled with books. Little Free Libraries are popping up everywhere, lining yards, parks, and streets. The idea is simple: Take a book from the small window and leave another for someone else to read.

The first Little Free Library was inadvertently built in 2009 by Todd Bol who wanted to honor his mom, a teacher who had a passion for reading. The Little Free Library organization officially became a nonprofit in 2012 and, as of 2023, hosts more than 150,000 libraries in over 120 countries.

Each Little Free Library is registered with the official organization, so you can go online to find one nearest to you. If you’ve been thinking about starting your own community library, we’ve got all the info you need. We’re sharing how to build, register, and maintain your own Little Free Library in your front yard.

Why Build a Little Free Library?

The mission of the Little Free Library organization is to unite communities, inspire more people to read, and give everyone access to free books. Although each library has an assigned ‘steward,’ the intention is for the community as a whole to be responsible for keeping it stocked and secure.

Although the official Little Free Library organization was founded almost a decade before the onset of the recent pandemic, they became increasingly popular in 2020 as people searched for a safe way to connect with neighbors. Since then, they’ve gained even more popularity and have become a mainstream feature in suburban neighborhoods.

The organization’s goal is to have at least one Little Free Library in every neighborhood. “We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege,” the website says. A neighborhood library erases the obstacle of buying new books or having to travel to the actual library during certain hours, making books more accessible to everyone.

How to Start a Little Free Library

If you’ve been wanting to add a Little Free Library to your neighborhood, the organization has helpful tips on how to get started. First, check to see if there are any others in your area so that you don’t choose the exact same location. Use the website or mobile app to search your area but keep in mind that any non-registered libraries won’t show up on the map.

Next, decide where to put it. If you want to put the library in your own yard, confirm if it’s possible based on your town’s zoning laws or neighborhood HOA rules before setting up shop. Although they encourage using private property since it’s easier, Little Free Library does provide strategies for trying to get public space approval such as providing examples of zoning ordinances from a city in which it was successfully granted.

The last step is to either purchase or build your library and fill it with books.

How to Build a Little Free Library

Little Free Libraries all look unique, because they’re typically built or decorated by the person who installs them. When it comes to installing your own, there are two options: You can buy premade kits, or if you’re the crafty type, you can build your own. If you decide to go the DIY route, there are dozens of instructions online to help you craft your library.

You can also purchase finished or unfinished libraries directly from the organization’s online store. If you purchase an unfinished kit, they provide instructions on how to build it. The kits run between $200 and $500, so consider teaming up with your neighbors to go in on one together. Note: if you order a library through their site, they also include an official charter sign.

How to Maintain a Little Free Library

Once you have your Little Free Library up and running, here are some tips for making it a smash hit in the neighborhood:

  • For unfinished wood libraries, start with applying primer then opt for water or oil-based paint so it lasts as long as possible. It’s recommended to touch it up every two years or so to keep the colors vibrant.
  • Little Free Library suggests dressing yours up with features such as motion lights or a guest book. For more inspiration, they showcase a myriad of creative ideas from around the world on their blog.
  • As a Little Free Library steward, it’s ultimately up to you to make sure the box is stocked and fresh books are regularly rotating. You can do this by marketing your library around town and asking friends, family, or public libraries and bookstores to donate. Be sure to also declutter your own bookshelves and pop a few in the library to share with others.

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