Little Free Library FAQs
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Finding Little Libraries and Getting Started with Your Own
1. 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 Libraries 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!
2. Is there a World Map of Little Free Libraries? Where is it and how do I navigate it?
You may find the World Map of registered Little Free Libraries on several pages of our website, including the home page. You may also find the map on the page called Map in our main menu. If you are having trouble navigating the map, simply click on the link below the map that allows you to open it in full-page view. You will then see an index on the left-hand side of the map that allows you to locate Libraries based on City and State. 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 Little Free Library network services.
3. How do I get my Library on the World Map? If my Library is already on the World Map, how do I update it?
Simple! First be sure that your Library has an official charter sign and number. If you do not have one, you may request your Steward’s Packet and charter sign on the Make It Official page. There is a one-time payment of $34.95 per Library for the Steward’s Packet and charter sign. If you already have your charter sign, then all you need to do is fill out to the register your library on the map form. If your Library is already on the map and you want to update it, go to the register your library on the map page and fill out the form again. Be sure to check the box at the top of the form stating that this information is an update to a current listing.
4. 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! Check out the Get Involved page for step by step instructions for how to get started.
5. How do I indicate 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 your library on the map form. You will be able to indicate on the form that you are updating a current map listing. You can then enter up-to-date information on your Library’s new Steward or location.
6. 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 if you are using recycled materials, re-purposing something like an old microwave or wooden cabinet or buying everything brand new. There is also a one-time payment of $34.95 per Library to receive a Steward’s Packet of support materials and 1 official charter sign and number for your Library. The charter sign is the marker that shows the whole world that your Library is officially a member of the network; the charter number allows your Library to be listed on the World Map (along with other benefits!). You will also want to factor in installation costs (wooden post, mounting sleeve, hardware, etc.) which are usually around $30 and 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 pay the $34.95. You will, however, need to factor in installation costs (see above).
7. 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 Libraries 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.
Who Can Build One, Where To Place It and Protection Issues
8. I want to put a Library in my neighborhood but there is already one nearby. Can Little Libraries be too close together?
As far as we concerned, Little Libraries 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. So go for it!
9. 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/decorate a Library for you since it would be a constant advertisement of their work in the community! 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 fundraise yourself. Here are some great resources on how to fundraise. 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!
10. 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 through our website.
11. 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; only Stewards. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14.Won't someone vandalize the Little Library?
Incidents of vandalism are very 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. Check out the How-To Information page for a more comprehensive answer to this question.
About The Books: Donating, Borrowing, Maintaining, Stealing
15. 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. For a more comprehensive answer, check out the How-To Information page.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. I want to donate several books to Little Free Libraries. How do I do so?
If want to contribute just a few, we’d love for you to put them in Little Libraries near you. Just stop by a Library 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.
19. Can anyone contribute and take books from a Library? Does the exact book taken have to be returned?
Yes, absolutely; 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 Libraries function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside. This way, we all win!
20. 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/her name and contact information on the Little Free Library Map of the World. Introduce yourself! That’s part of the whole idea.
Signage, Making It Official and Registering on the Map
21. I'm confused by the whole Make It Official and 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 $34.95 for a standard charter sign or $74.95 for a custom charter sign. The custom charter sign allows you to add up to 3 lines of custom text to your charter 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. We will then use this information to add your Library to the World Map; it may take a couple of weeks for your Library to be mapped since much of the mapping is done by a team of volunteers.
22. What if I want to Make It Official and get steward's packets and charter signs, but I am not the Steward/I represent an organization?
No problem. When you fill out a Make It Official form, all that tells us is where to ship the steward’s packets and charter signs that you request and pay for. We do not 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 Library’s steward, actual location, etc.
23. 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 Libraries 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!
24. 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 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. You may purchase a custom support sign to add to your Library (in addition to the standard sign) through our catalog.
25. How do I get an official sign for my Library and what does it cost?
If you bought a Library through this website, then it will arrive with a standard charter sign already attached. A Steward’s packet will arrive with your purchase as well. If you have built your own Library, then go to the Make It Official page to request your Steward’s packet and sign. It is $34.95 for a standard charter sign (with Steward’s Packet) and $74.95 for a custom charter sign (with Steward’s Packet).
26. When should I Make It Official 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. You do not need to request those items.
27. 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 registration 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.
28. Do I have to list my contact information on the map?
It’s up to you. We only list Steward email addresses on the map so that they may contact each other if necessary. However, there is an option on the registration form to opt out of listing your email address. We never list phone numbers or other personal information on the map. The only way that your home address will be on the map is if your Library is located there and you choose to list the Library’s exact location on the map.
29. 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. However, we can give it a special icon indicating that it travels. There is an option to request this icon on the registration form.
Library Materials and Maintenance
30. What exactly are your Little Libraries made out of? What are their exact dimensions?
The standard Libraries built and sold by Little Free Library itself are made from three types of materials: Amish barn wood that has endured nearly a century of weather, exterior signboards and a blend of recycled plastic and wood products. The dimensions and materials for each model are listed on the Catalog page.
31. 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 of the website. 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.
32. 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 Libraries survive.
33. Is any aspect of my purchase or donation tax deductible?
That depends on a variety of factors. Please consult your accountant or tax specialist for a comprehensive answer.
34. 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.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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.
38. 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.