The San Francisco ‘Painted Ladies’ Little Free Library

By Megan Hanson

Little Free Library #106502 is in Alamo Square Park, San Francisco. Find this library and many more on the Little Free Library world map! Stewards Andrew and Gretchen and their children are a family of book lovers. They love reading together, visiting the library, picking out travel books related to their upcoming family trips, and filling their home library shelves with new titles.

In the wake of the pandemic, when everything shut down and most people felt disconnected from their neighbors, the McCollums wanted to share their love of books and reading with their community. They wanted to create a space where others can do the same, so they built a Little Free Library complete with a door sensor to track its overall usage.

Andrew said this was his first electronic project, and it was relatively easy to accomplish with the help of a few simple tools available for purchase on Amazon. Here is how you can add a door sensor to your little library.

You will need a Canakit Raspberry Pi Starter Kit, a Raspberry Pi Compatible Door Sensorwires to connect the door sensor, and a Soldering Iron. To assemble, follow the starter kit instructions, then solder the door sensor wire to a connector that you can plug into the Raspberry Pi. According to Andrew, the items are ready to assemble straight from the box and are straightforward. However, if anyone needs additional help, Andrew and Gretchen can be reached by direct message to their Instagram page.

Since installing their Little Free Library, it has been a big hit in their community. Gretchen said, “We have been so pleased at how engaged members of our community are with the library. Local families go out of their way to bring us diverse books, teens who were reluctant to part with their beloved middle grade books were excited to donate them to the library, a preschooler stopped me on the street to mention she was going to bring more board books (because we did not have enough of those), and friends across the country have mailed us boxes and boxes of donations when they move.”

The door sensor has also proven to be effective in helping them track engagement. According to Andrew, their LFL receives around 20 visits daily during weekdays and 40 during the weekend. During a particularly busy day, their LFL received 70 visitors! Andrew is interested in seeing the data results after an entire year.

Gretchen said their Painted Ladies Little Free Library has been a wonderful point of connection for them, in a way that has surprised them beyond just passing on books.

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