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.
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; Little Libraries have been called "mini-town squares."
How many Little Free Libraries are there?
As of September 2015, there are over 32,000 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 and it is not registered, please ask the steward to visit our website and register.
How can I donate books?
Can I use your logo and where can I download it?
For information on the correct usage of Little Free Library's official logo and a link to download it, visit the Press Resources page of our website. The logo is available in the section titled Little Free Library Logos, Trademarks and Service Marks.
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, or click here.
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. 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 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 your main cost is materials, which could range from $15 to $150. There is a one-time payment of about $40 per Library to receive a steward’s packet and official charter sign and charter number for your Library. Your charter number is the key to putting your Library on the World Map. Think about installation costs, too, (wooden post, 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. You will still want to think about installation costs, though.
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.
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?
Nope. 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?
We don't think so. 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?
There are 2 easy steps to register:
- Purchase a charter sign and number. It costs about $40 USD and you only need to buy a charter sign separately if you built your own Library; if you bought a Library through littlefreelibrary.org, then your Library comes with a charter sign. The charter sign allows you to legally use the name Little Free Library and entitles you to all the benefits of being a registered steward.
- Get on the World Map. After you receive your charter sign and steward's packet, fill out the Register on the World Map form. This is when you can tell us where the Library is located, share the story behind it, upload photos and more.
How do I get my Library on the World Map?
When should I first register/purchase a charter sign?
There is no “right time” to purchase a charter sign and steward's packet. A lot of people purchase their charter sign right away, even before they have built their Library. That way they can add their charter sign to their Library as soon as it's completed. Remember, Libraries purchased through littlefreelibrary.org automatically include a charter sign and steward's packet.
What if I want to buy a charter sign but I'm not the Library's steward?
No problem. When you purchase a charter sign, we won’t automatically save you in our records as the Library steward. After the items have arrived and the Libraries have been installed, the steward needs to fill out a Register Your Library on the Map form. The information entered on that form tells us where the Library is located and who the steward is.
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 ordered a Library from your website. Do I still need to buy a charter 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. But, applying a sealant to the sign every few years is a good idea. Click here for tips to care for a charter sign over time.
If my Library is already on the World Map, how can I update it?
Simply fill out a Register/Update your Library on the World Map with the most up-to-date information, whether that's new contact information for the steward, photos, an updated story, etc. Be sure to enter your Library's correct charter number.
Do I have to list my contact information on the Map?
Nope. You have the choice to share your name and email, or not, when you add your Library to the world map. Lots of stewards like to share their email address (try creating a separate email address just for your Little Library, if you don't want to share your personal email) so that other stewards or people who are looking for the Library can reach out to them.
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! When you add your Library to the world map, you may choose to list your street address or just GPS coordinates.
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.
What are the dimensions or paint colors of a Library I purchased from you?
Dimensions for every Library we sell along with paint colors for many of our Libraries are available on this document.
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.
What if someone places inappropriate books in my Library?
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.