Little Free Library FAQs
Click on the question to reveal the answer.
What is a Little Free Library and what’s so special about it?
A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. In its most basic form, it’s a wooden box of books where anyone may pick up a book or two, or bring a book to share. If this were just about providing free books on a shelf, the whole idea might disappear after a few months. Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch and there is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community. These aren’t just any old books, this is a carefully curated collection. The Library itself is a piece of neighborhood art that functions like a mini-town square.)
How many Little Free Libraries are there?
As of July 2015, there are over 30,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U.S. states and over 70 countries around the world.)
How can I find Little Free Libraries near me?
Check out the World Map of Little Free Libraries. Use the Search bar above the Map to find Little Free Library book exchanges near you. If you find a Library in your daily travels and it is not registered, please do your part. Talk the Library steward and urge them to take advantage of the Little Free Library network of services.
How can I donate books?
How can I start a Little Free Library?
Scroll down to the section below titled I Want A Little Free Library to learn how to start your own.
How did this get started and is Little Free Library a registered non-profit organization?
Yes, Little Free Library, Ltd. is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. There is a small team of staff and volunteers who maintain this website, who run outreach programs to give Little Free Libraries to neighborhoods in need and who provide support services to Little Free Library stewards around the world. To learn how this worldwide movement got its start, click here.
Can I donate to support Little Free Library and is my donation tax-deductible?
Yes, you may donate directly to Little Free Library. Direct monetary donations processed through our donations page are tax-deductible and you will be emailed a receipt for your records after donating. If you have donated other items or are wondering if the Library that you purchased is tax-deductible, please consult your accountant or tax specialist for a comprehensive answer.
I need access to your W-9. What is Little Free Library's TIN?
You may access Little Free Library’s W-9 here.
Can anyone give or take books from any Little Free Library? Do I have to return the exact book I take?
Yes, anyone may contribute or take books. The more the merrier! If you take a book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside. This way, we all win!
How do I get in touch with a Little Free Library steward in my neighborhood?
Knock on his or her door or leave a note in the Library itself. See if the steward has included his or her name and contact information on the World Map. Introduce yourself! That’s part of the whole idea.
I found a Library but it's not on your World Map - what do I do?
If you find a Library in your daily travels and it is not registered on the World Map, please do your part. Approach the nearest home or business and ask to talk the Library steward. Encourage them to Make It Official and get an official charter sign and number if they don’t have one. If they do have one, encourage them to Register on the World Map to help others find their Little Library.
Starting a Little Free Library
I want to have a Little Free Library in my neighborhood. How do I get started?
What costs are there to start a Little Free Library?
That depends on whether your are building your own Library or buying one from our online catalog.
- If you are building your own Library, then you need to factor in the cost of materials, which can be anywhere from $15 to $150, depending on your choice of materials. There is also a one-time payment of about $40 per Library to receive a steward’s packet of support materials and 1 official charter sign and number for your Library. Your charter sign and number will let you proudly display that your Library is an official member of the worldwide network. Plus, your charter number is the key to putting your Library on the World Map. You will also want to factor in installation costs (wooden post, mounting sleeve, hardware, etc.) which are usually around $30. Check out our installation instructions here.
- If you purchase a Library through our website, then a steward’s packet and 1 official charter sign are included in the purchase price; there is no need to purchase those separately. You will, however, need to factor in installation costs (see above).
If I purchase a Library through your website, what does it come with? Installation materials?
Every Library model that we sell through our online catalog will arrive with 1 standard charter sign (engraved with a charter number) and 1 steward’s packet of support materials. Installation materials (i.e. post, mounting sleeve, hardware, etc.) are not included. However, there are recommended installation instructions available on the Builders page. A detailed description of what comes with each item, including our returns policy, is located in the product description of each Library in the online catalog.
I can't build a Library myself or afford one of yours...what do I do?
Your community is full of resources, use them! Consider contacting a local organization who might build a Library for you, such as:
- Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops
- Local carpenters or artists
- Schools, churches or community centers
- Rotary clubs, 4-H Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs or Lions Clubs
You could also raise funds yourself using these great tips. Finally, don’t count yourself out if you think you can’t build one! Try re-purposing something that already has a door and space for books inside. Check out this blog post for ideas.
I live in a city that gets a lot of snow/rain/hail/humidity. Have you had trouble with books being damaged by weather conditions?
Problems have been few and far between. If the Library is designed and built well—and the books don’t just sit inside for months at a time—you shouldn’t have any problems. Be sure to look over the tips and tricks to building a sturdy, weather-proof Library on the Builders page. Keep in mind that Little Free Library started in Wisconsin. It gets very cold and very hot, very wet, windy and buried in snow here…but Little Free Library book exchanges survive.
Does a Little Free Library have to be outdoors?
Absolutely not. We have no rules regarding where you may install a Little Library, but be sure to check with the landowner before installing them wherever you please. Many Libraries are outdoors, but yours could be a bookcase in a coffee shop, a wicker basket in an office waiting room or a cute wooden box in the lobby of your apartment building. Click here for more information on zoning laws and where to place your Library.
Does a Little Free Library have to be available to the public 24/7?
That is up to you, but we highly encourage you to make your Library as accessible to as many people as possible. A big part of the fun is meeting new people! We do know of seasonal Little Free Library book exchanges or ones that are located on private business or university campuses. If you’d like to register yours even though the entire public may not be able to use it, go for it. Just keep in mind that if it’s on the World Map, people will come looking for it. Please don’t add it to the Map if the average person won’t be able to find or use it.
Can just anyone build a Library? What if I represent a larger organization?
I want to put a Library in my neighborhood but there is already one nearby. Can Little Free Library book exchanges be too close together?
As far as we are concerned, Little Free Library book exchanges cannot be too close together. We know of Libraries located right next to each other that are both successful because each Library had active, involved stewards who supported each other. Before installing your Library, it's a good idea to chat with the steward of the existing Library to see how you can work together to be successful.
Can I put it on public property? What are the city regulations that affect this?
Every city will have different rules. You can apply for permits, variances and approvals but it could take a long time. Here is what we have learned so far:
- The best strategy is to avoid needing to ask permission. Unless you are “the man” (the city government, for example) that is officially sponsoring the Library, pick a spot on private property.
- The larger the municipality, the more difficult approval may be.
- Be considerate of other people’s rights. Don’t put the Library where it might impede daily activities such as walking, biking, shoveling snow, etc.
- Assure whoever is worried that you have a good steward and lots of people who will look out for it over the long term. The authorities don’t want to have added responsibilities. Check out this blog post for more information.
Are there any liability issues involved in establishing a Little Free Library?
As long as you have permission from the landowner, install your Library securely and out of the way of foot traffic, you are not likely to have any issues. Be sure to keep your Library in good condition (fresh paint, clean, accessible) to encourage people to use it and avoid complaints! Some stewards have decided to purchase personal or commercial liability insurance as a safeguard. If you are worried, consult a lawyer for a comprehensive answer.
Won't someone vandalize the Little Library?
Incidents of vandalism are rare, but they do happen from time to time. If you’re anxious, put the Library in a highly visible spot; not in a vacant lot with weeds and trash all around it. Have lots of people using it and looking out for it. If something does happen, alert the local authorities and tell all of your friends and neighbors what has happened. Ask for help; if you’re a registered steward, join the private Facebook group of your fellow stewards and ask for advice. Check out our blog for more information and examples of how stewards have handled vandalism.
Who is my local contact person?
Check the World Map to see if anyone near you is a steward or supporter, then contact that person for advice. There are no official representatives or staff of the non-profit Little Free Library outside of the state of Wisconsin. Put a notice on our Facebook page and see if you can find others who share your interest.
Registering a Little Free Library & the World Map
I'm confused by the whole registration process. How does that work?
If you want to put up a Little Library in your neighborhood, there are 2 easy steps to make sure your Library is officially registered with our organization:
- Make It Official. Fill out the Make It Official form to request your steward’s packet of support materials and an official charter sign. It is very important that you have an official charter sign on your Library since it will have your unique charter number engraved on it. This sign tells everyone who stops by your Library that you are an official member of the network! It also allows you to register on the World Map, which is the second step in this process (see below). There is a one-time payment of about $40 for a standard charter sign or $75 for a custom charter sign. The custom charter sign allows you to add up to 3 lines of custom text to your charter sign and you’ll be emailed a mock-up for approval before we ship your custom sign. NOTE: You only need to Make It Official if you built your Library or received it from a source other than littlefreelibrary.org. If you purchased a Library from us, a steward’s packet and charter sign are included in the purchase price.
- Register on the World Map. After you have received your steward’s packet and attached your charter sign to your Library, fill out the Register on the World Map form. This is when you can tell us where the Library is located, the story behind it, upload photos and more.
How do I get my Library on the World Map?
Simple! First be sure that your Library has an official charter sign and number. If you do not have one, you may purchase your steward’s packet and charter sign on the Make It Official page. Then simply fill out a Register Your Library on the World Map form to add or update your Library’s information.
When should I first register and request my steward's packet?
The sooner, the better! There is no “right time” to Make It Official and request your registration materials. We recommend that you do so once you have decided to build your own Little Library. That way, you will already have the official charter sign once your Library is completed. Please remember that if you decide to purchase a Library through our website, then it will arrive with a standard charter sign and steward’s packet included.
What if I want to register to get steward's packets and charter signs, but I am not the steward?
No problem. When you fill out a Make It Official form, that just tells us where to ship your steward’s packets and charter signs. We won’t automatically add Libraries to the map or save you in our records as the Library steward. After the items have arrived and the Libraries have been installed, you will then fill out a Register Your Library on the Map form. That is where you may list the steward contact information, the Library’s actual location, etc.
When will my steward's packet and charter sign arrive? How do I know if I successfully paid?
Steward’s packets and charter signs arrive within 3-4 weeks of the purchase date. We don’t send out tracking numbers yet, although we hope to in the future. The best way to tell if you successfully paid for your items is to check for an email receipt from PayPal. We automatically send a confirmation email when you fill out the Make It Official form, but if you don’t finish the process and pay, we don’t ship your items.
I want to order a custom sign. Do I still need to make it official to receive a standard charter sign?
That depends. If you are building your own Library, then you may order a custom charter sign when you make it official. There is an option on the make it official form that allows you to request a custom sign instead of a standard sign. If you purchased a Library through this website, then your Library will automatically come with a standard charter sign and number. If you want additional custom signage, you will need to have that created locally.
I ordered a Library from your website. Do I still need to make it official to receive a steward's packet and sign?
No, you don’t! Little Free Library book exchanges purchased through this website will arrive with a standard charter sign and steward’s packet. These are included in the purchase price. All you need to do is wait for your Library to arrive and then register it on the map.
I just got my official charter sign! Do I need to seal it to protect it from the outdoors?
Every official charter sign is painted with quality exterior paint that protects it from the elements. No additional protective layers are necessary. However, applying a protective sealant to the sign every few years is a good idea.
If my Library is already on the World Map, how do I add photos or update the information?
Simply fill out a Register on the World Map form to add or update your Library’s information. Many changes can be handled within 24 hours and we will email you as soon as your changes have been made.
Do I have to list my contact information on the Map?
It’s up to you. We encourage you to share your email address (or perhaps create an email address just for your Little Free Library) so that other stewards, publishers and well-wishers may contact you! However, there is an option on the Register on the World Map form to opt out of listing your email address. We never list phone numbers or other personal information on the map.
Do I have to list the exact location of my Library when I register on the map?
No, but it certainly makes it easier to find! Nearly everyone who hosts a Library is proud to be associated with it and is not worried about privacy violation. We strongly encourage you to pick a specific location before you register. However, there is an option on the Register on the World Map form that allows you to omit your exact location on the map.
My Little Library and others in my area were on the old map - why aren't they on this new map?
We transferred over as many Little Free Library locations from the old map as we could, but we know that several thousand didn’t make the switch. The old map was created using free Google software which only allowed us to transfer about 1,000 locations to the new map. You may not see your Little Library or others in your area on this new map. If you don't, simply fill out a new Register on the World Map form and we’ll add or update your listing. You’ll receive an email when your information has been updated.
Why doesn't my Library show up when I search by steward's name?
When you registered on the World Map, if you chose not to display your name on the map, then you are not searchable by name, either.
Why doesn't the Near Me search function work?
If other searches are working but the Near Me search is not, that is likely because you did not allow the map to use your location. When you first open the map, most people will see a pop-up asking to share your location. If you click Allow, then the map will use your location to find Little Free Library book exchanges near you. If you didn’t see a pop-up, be sure you allow pop-ups for littlefreelibrary.org in your browser settings.
What if my Library will be traveling with me when I go on trips?
Like people, Little Libraries need homes. If you take them with you, leave a note and let people know when it will return. Your regular patrons and readers will miss it! Your Library will always be listed on the map at its home location.
Maintaining a Little Free Library
What is the recommended maintenance for a Little Free Library?
If the Library is made of wood, then think of it like an exterior deck. It will need to be sealed for protection from the elements initially and then again every few years. Stop by your local hardware store or paint shop and ask what sealant they recommend based on the type of wood you used to build your Little Library. We like Daich Hi-Build Clear Thick Acrylic Sealer and Sikkens Cetol Translucent Wood Finish, but it’s up to you. Libraries with art work on them should have several coats of sealer to be safe.
If a Library is leaking, what is the best way to figure out where the leak is and how do I fix it?
First, remove all the books from inside the Library. Then spray it with a hose from above to expose any leaks. Once you have found the leaks, caulk them with a silicone caulk.
Condensation is forming on the inside of my Library. How do I fix that?
You can create an air vent by drilling four small holes in the floor of the Library. Drill the holes close to the front (near the door) so that the moisture can flow out without reaching your books.
Won't people steal the books?
No. You can’t steal a free book. And if you have a good steward and lots of active users, eventually someone who tries to “steal” books will realize that it’s not a good thing to do. An official Little Free Library stamp in the books will also help prevent used bookstores from buying them. If someone is repeatedly clearing out your Library, put up a sign explaining that your Little Library is a community resource for everyone to enjoy and that you and others notice when the Library is mistreated. You could even consider moving the Library to a more public location, like a coffee shop or a school, if you continue to have trouble. For a more comprehensive answer, check out the How-To Information page.
What if someone places inappropriate books in my Library? Does someone monitor the Library to approve its contents?
Everyone who uses the Library has the right of helping make sure the types of books in it are appropriate to neighbors of all ages and backgrounds. You are as capable as anyone else to remove a book…but we encourage you to be open-minded about it. For example, if the Library becomes a place for promoting controversial causes, it might lose a good number of customers. Censorship is not the answer, but a balanced collection can be. Don’t ban books, but instead of 5 or 10 copies of something, 1 copy might do. Instead of a messy collection of handouts and brochures promoting almost anything, try limiting pamphlets to recruitment for tutoring or reading programs.
What if we run out of books?
Ask Library users, neighbors and friends to contribute books. Keep them informed about what they can bring by leaving a note in your Library asking for a certain type of books. But don’t let people assume that someone else (you, for example) is solely responsible. The more people who participate, the better. You could even run a book drive!