How to Turn a Plastic Newspaper Rack into an Adorable Little Free Library

By Megan Hanson

The first time Brittney Block encountered a Little Free Library while jogging in her neighborhood, it was like magic. She says, “I stopped in my tracks to check out this box of books. I frequented that Little Free Library numerous times over the years, and I told myself that if I ever owned a home, I would establish one to continue to spread happiness and the love of reading.”

Fast forward a few years, and Brittney is the steward of Little Free Library #58177 in Memphis, Tennessee. Find her library and many more on the Little Free Library world map! Brittney converted an old newspaper rack that she got for free into a Little Free Library. If you’re wondering how to start a Little Free Library without spending a lot of money, keep reading to see how Brittney did it!

Where did you find the newspaper rack?

I am an avid user of Twitter, so I started by asking my followers for recommendations on Little Free Library builds that wouldn’t exceed my budget. By chance, an old college friend reached out to connect me with her friend’s mom. After a couple quick connections via Facebook and text, I was in contact with this amazing mother who quickly and gladly told me I could come pick up her extra newspaper/magazine rack.

It was in somewhat rough shape when I received it. The original rack was blue. It had been painted green, and the paint was chipping all over it. The door was off the hinges as well, and I had no idea how to reattach it. But I had big plans for it regardless!

How did you clean it up and decorate it?

I started by hand-sanding the rack, mostly to get the chipped paint off. Then I spray painted it with several coats of primer and ultimately white acrylic paint. I hand-painted the black spots with a square brush, and gave it several coats of clear matte enamel paint to seal in everything. This only took me one day to do.

The door took a bit longer. I followed the same sanding, priming, and painting process for the door and the handle, but I knew from the start I wanted to include Shel Silverstein’s poem “Invitation” and its accompanying candle illustration.

For this, I purchased a stencil from a crafter on Etsy. After a few different attempts, I ended up using the stencil with Sharpie versus paint. I sealed this in as well with clear matte enamel paint. In order to get the door back on, I actually had to contact the magazine rack manufacturer, who shared with me that I needed to use rivets to attach it to the hinge. All that to say, I taught myself how to rivet and got the door attached!

Additionally, I knew I wanted to do a small surrounding for my library. I used landscaping fabric with stakes, garden edging, and rocks. I also created a graphic for a yard sign with library rules and had it printed by FedEx Office. My awesome neighbor lended a hand helping me move the library to its final place.

What type of books do you stock and how are you spreading the word?

“I did a bit of promoting via social media ahead of time. I received monetary and book donations from friends that adhered to Little Free Library’s Read in Color program. I was able to stock my library for opening day with some wonderful inclusive books, and I also have some stockpiled to continue filling it. I got some wonderful ideas—like magnetic bookmarks and a dog library—from the Little Free Library Stewards Facebook group that helped me add a few finishing touches to my setup.

What has surprised you the most since starting a Little Free Library?

“It wasn’t a complete surprise, but the community support I feel here in Memphis around the opening of the Little Free Library on Johnwood has been incredible. This was a team effort between so many people. I was shocked when friends and strangers wanted to donate money for me to purchase books. I quickly setup an Amazon Wish List for Read in Color books, and I’ve opened up my front door to numerous packages of these diverse and inclusive titles.”

Follow the Little Free Library on Johnwood on Facebook for all the latest updates! Ready to start a Little Free Library? We’ve got more ideas to DIY Little Free Library or start a little library without spending lots of money. 

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