Little Free Library FAQs

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 Starting a Little Free Library

What 's so special about having an official Little Free Library?

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 and the Library itself is a piece of neighborhood art!

I want to have a Library in my neighborhood! How do I get started?

That’s great, we’re excited to have you join the network! The Get Involved and Register pages are a good place to start, and be sure to check out our blog, too!

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 $35 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).

Does a Little Free Library have to be outdoors?

Absolutely not. We have no rules regarding where you may install a Little Library (just 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.

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.

The Little Free Library World Map

Where is the World Map of Little Free Library book exchanges it and how do I navigate it?

You may find the World Map of registered Little Free Library book exchanges on the Locations page in our main menu. 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.

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.

What is a charter sign and charter number? How do I get one?

Your official charter sign is a small wooden or aluminum sign that we ship to you if you have built your own Library and need to register it. If you purchased your Library through our online catalog, it will arrive with a charter sign already attached. It is engraved with your official charter number and serves as a signal to everyone who stops by your Library that you are a registered member of the worldwide network. There is a one-time payment of about $35 per Library to receive a charter sign and number. Get yours here.

Why can I only see GPS coordinates for some listings on the World Map?

If you click on a particular location on the World Map and can only see GPS coordinates, that is because the steward of that particular Little Library chose not to share their street address when they registered on the World Map. We respect and protect the privacy of each LFL steward.

How do I tell you that my Library will have a new steward or location?

No problem. Either you or the new steward needs to fill out a new Register on the World Map form with the updated location, photos or contact information.

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 on the World Map form to add or update your Library’s information.

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.

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 export out a maximum of 1,000 listings from the old World Map; the rest of the listings could not be transferred.  Thus, you may not see your Little Library or others in your area on this new map. That’s why we’ve made it really easy to add your location. Simply fill out a new Register on the World Map form and we’ll add or update your listing, often within 24 hours. 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.

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. Remember, the site does not always have to be your front yard or a spot in front of your school or church. Sometimes it might work better to have the Little Library in a community garden or next to a house several blocks from a school…as a gift to the community.

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.

About the Little Free Library Organization

Is Little Free Library a non-profit organization?

Yes, Little Free Library, Ltd. is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

I need access to your W-9. What is Little Free Library's TIN?

You may access Little Free Library’s W-9 here.

Is any aspect of my purchase or donation tax deductible?

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.

Who Can Build One, Where To Place It and Protection Issues

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 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. Every community has diverse interests and every Little Library provides different types of books. As long as you’re prepared to take care of your Library, keep it stocked and clean and open for business, go for it!

I can't build a Library myself or afford one of yours...what do I do?

Consider contacting your local Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops to see if they would be willing to build some Libraries as a community service project. You could also approach local carpenters or artists who might be willing to build or decorate a Library for you. Your community is full of resources, use them! Maybe a high school, university, community center or Rotary group could pitch in; the possibilities are endless. 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. You could turn an old microwave, a wooden chest, a bread box, a used kitchen cabinet, a toolbox or just about anything else into a Little Free Library. Get creative with it!

Can just anyone build a Library? What if I represent a larger organization?

Yes, anyone may build a Library and if you represent a larger organization, that’s great! You may certainly advertise that your Library was established by a different organization as long as it is registered.

I am interested in establishing a Little Free Library in my area. 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. For now, there are no “official” representatives for 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. If you cannot find anyone in your community who will help, contact us.

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 the How-To Information page for more resources.

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 the How-To Information page for a more comprehensive answer to this question.

About The Books: Donating, Borrowing, Maintaining, Stealing

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! For information on how to do so, check out the How-To Information page.

I want to donate several books to Little Free Library book exchanges. How do I do so?

If want to contribute just a few, we’d love for you to put them in a Little Free Library near you. Just find a Library on the World Map, stop by and drop them off! For larger quantities, look over the How To Donate Books handout on the How-To Information page. Then, Contact Us if necessary.

Can anyone contribute and take books from a Library? Does the exact book taken have to be returned?

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 at any point. 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.

Signage And Registration

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:

  1. 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 $35 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.
  2. 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.

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.

What if I want to get steward's packets and charter signs, but I am not the steward or I represent an organization?

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.

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 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 by a local craftsperson.

When should I first register and request my steward's packet and official charter sign?

 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.

Library Materials and Maintenance

What exactly are your Little Libraries made out of? What are their exact dimensions?

Each Library model that we sell is slightly different. Some are made out of 100-year-old barn wood, some are made out of stucco over plywood and others are made of a recycled composite material. The dimensions and materials for each model are listed in the product description in our online catalog.

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 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.

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.

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.

Which Library models need to be sealed to protect any stain or paint from fading or flaking off?

All paints and stains will fade over time. A fresh coat of paint or stain every year (along with a new coat of sealant) will ensure that your Library stays as beautiful and bright as the day you installed it. We recommend that you do not go more than 2 years between reapplying the paint or stain on your Library.

Does the Cedar Sunrise Library require any extra protection if it is placed outdoors?

We love the fresh stained look of the Cedar Sunrise and recommend protecting it with a coat of natural, oil-based stain every spring and fall. We like Sikkens Cedar stain, but it’s up to you. Before applying your chosen stain, quickly sand the wood with sandpaper (120 or higher) or zero steel wool to open the pores and remove accumulated dirt. Then, evenly apply the stain to all surfaces of the Library. Finally, apply a sealant to the Library to further protect it from the elements. We like the brown Polyseamseal from Loctite.

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.