The Little Free Library outside of Springdale Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky is literally overflowing. From preschool field trips to plant sales, they have done such an excellent job promoting their Library and engaging the local community that they had to open up several bookshelves inside the church to contain extra book donations.
How did they promote their Little Library? How do they keep people regularly using it? One of the 11 Stewards of this Little Library, Diane Kirkpatrick, gave us the inside scoop.
“We started by gathering information about running an LFL. Our great good fortune was to meet Judy who put an LFL in her front yard on a remote street. It wasn’t well used, and she offered to donate it to Springdale.
“Church members responded so well to the request for books for adults and children that we soon had a collection of more than 300 books. We stored them on bookshelves inside Klein Chapel – just steps away from the LFL. People know that if they can’t find the book they want outside, they can browse inside.
“We hosted a grand opening party for the community and publicized it widely through:
- Invitations in the newsletters of nearby neighborhoods
- Web page, email newsletters and church bulletins
- Personal invitations to families, friends and neighbors
- Local TV and newspaper coverage
- Invitations to the families of children in our preschool
- Invitations to residents of nearby senior living centers
- Invitations to sister churches in our area of town
- Invitations to Springdale’s English as a Second Language students
- Announcement on church sign board
- Sign – “Free Books Saturday” – the week of our grand opening
“For the Grand Opening we displayed books on tables arranged by categories. Greeters welcomed guests and accepted the books they brought to the LFL. After a friendly welcome and explanation of how the LFL works…a grandfather and his five year old granddaughter read a story to the guests. We served refreshments and assisted guests in finding books.”
The Stewards of Springdale Presbyterian’s Library did more than just have a great Grand Opening. As the months passed they came up with creative ways to continue to promote the Library and keep people engaged:
- Stewards designated specific months for mystery and adventure, gardening, or travel and history.
- In 2013, Springdale hosted the plant sale of a local garden club. Two of our LFL Stewards set up a table to display our garden and landscape books. They engaged customers in conversations, gave them books, and invited them to return. In 2014, the garden club members brought their surplus garden magazines and books for the Stewards to distribute.
- During Children’s Book Week the Stewards hosted a field trip for more than fifty children in our church’s preschool. On a beautiful day the teachers escorted their students from their classrooms…after a warm greeting by a Steward, the children went inside Klein Chapel to listen to a story, enjoy snacks, and select a book to take home. Two members of our public library staff told the students about Louisville’s summer reading events.
- Springdale has a project to provide healthy meals to people and families facing a hard or busy time (new baby, illness, death in the family, etc.) When a delivery volunteer takes a “frozen asset” meal from the church freezer to a family, they also take books from the Library.
- They devised a system to take books out of inventory for three months to be sure the LFL has “new” books every two weeks. They put books in three baskets with the labels March, April, or May, not to be used again until three months is up. That way, guests find new and appealing books every time they visit.
Now that their Library is nearly 2 years old, the Springfield Presbyterian Little Library Stewards have compiled some tips and tricks to help you run a successful and well-used Library:
- Media coverage is more likely if you have a good hook – grand opening, anniversary celebration, Scout or school participation, book trading party. National Library Week (April12-18, 2015), Teen Read Week (October 12 -18, 2014), Children’s Book Week (May 12-18, 2014), School Library Month (April 2015).
- Signage is important. We put the Library icon sign on the post of our LFL so people would identify it as the LFL and not expect to go inside the church. We also have a sign by a busy road that says, “Little Free Library. Take a book; leave a book” with an arrow pointing to the LFL.
- Social media is an effective promotional tool. The garden club members expanded the number of people who knew about their plant sale by sending emails to their address book contacts and posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Promoting an LFL is not a “one and done” effort. It must be repeated. New people move into a community; some miss a TV interview; some forget about it as a reading resource. Information and invitations need to engage the community regularly.
- Grandparents are natural partners. Many babysit or drive carpool for their grandchildren. They can entertain and teach grandchildren with LFL books – for free. It’s easy to run by a Library and select new books while returning the old ones. It makes a date with a grandchild an anticipated fun time.
- Librarians in local schools are also good partners. We asked the librarians of two nearby elementary schools to distribute LFL bookmarks with a picture of the Library and information on how to use it. We are considering making presentations to schools next fall and perhaps school field trips for specific grades.
- Keep your Library in good condition. After two years and a terrible winter in 2014, ours needed a refresher coat of protective spray (or paint or stain, depending on how you decorated your Library). We want the Library to look good and continue to be waterproof.
Diane and the other Stewards have heard from several community members who say they have read significantly more since the Library’s installation than in previous years. They encourage anyone traveling through the Louisville area to stop by and if you’d like more information, you may contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No matter how long your Little Library has been up and running, we hope that these tips and tricks help you to jumpstart your Library or re-engage with your neighbors and fellow readers. And…if you have strategies that have worked well to promote your Library, then please share them in the comments below!