Little Free Library FAQs

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General

A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share. Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called “mini-town squares.”

Category: General

Anyone can share books in local Little Free Library book-sharing boxes! Use Little Free Library’s world map to find Little Libraries near you. Then, visit the Little Library of your choice and leave some books inside. It’s that easy! Please be respectful, though, and don’t cram books in a Library that’s already full. Speak with the homeowner or business owner where the Library is installed if you’re not sure if it’s OK to leave books.

Categories: Donations, General

Yes, Little Free Library is a registered nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. To learn more about us and how this worldwide movement got started visit our About page, or watch the video below to take a tour of Little Free Library headquarters in Hudson, WI!

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There are more than 80,000 registered Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in 91 countries worldwide. Find some in your area using our world map.

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For information on the correct usage of Little Free Library’s 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.

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Little Free Library is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Click to download Little Free Library’s W-9.

Category: General

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!

Category: General
Tag: books

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 our world map. Introduce yourself! That’s part of the whole idea.

Category: General

Check our world map to see if anyone near you is a steward or supporter, then contact that person for advice. The only official representatives of Little Free Library are employees of the nonprofit organization.

Category: General

Yes, absolutely! When you register by purchasing a charter sign, we do not automatically save you in our records as the Library steward. We will list you in our records as the charter sign purchaser. After the Libraries have been installed, the steward of each Library needs to fill out an Add your Library to the world map form. The information entered on that form tells us where the Library is actually located and who the steward is.

Category: General

No, you do not! If you bought a Little Free Library through our online store, your Library is automatically registered and will come with a 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 add your Library to the world map.

Category: General

Starting a Library

Learn how to start your own Little Free Library. We have a helpful step-by-step diagram that walks you through the process from start to finish.

That depends on whether you are building your own Library or buying one from our online store.

  • If you purchase a Library through our website, then you don’t need to register separately. Your Library will come with a charter sign included. You will still want to think about installation costs, though.

Every Library that we sell through our online store comes with a charter sign and a steward’s packet included. Every charter sign is engraved with a unique charter number. Installation materials, like a wooden post and hardware, are not included. We sell posts as separate product in our online store. We have installation instructions on the Build page of our website.

Your community is full of resources. Use them! Contact 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

And don’t count yourself out; you can build one even if you’re not handy! Try repurposing something that already has a door and space for books inside. Check out this blog post for ideas.

Nope. We have no rules about where you may install a Little Library, but be sure to check with the landowner before installing one wherever you please. Many Libraries are outdoors, but yours could be a bookcase in a coffee shop, a wicker basket in an office or a cute wooden box in the lobby of your apartment building. Watch the video below for more information on where to install your Library and zoning regulations.

That is up to you. We encourage you to make it easy to find and open to the public. 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 campuses. If your Library is in a private location but you still want to register it, go for it. Just remember that if it is on the world map, people will come looking for it. Please do not add it to the map if the average person will not be able to find or use it.

Yes, anyone may build a Library. Check out the Build page for blueprints and inspiration. If you represent a larger organization, that’s great! You can certainly advertise that your Library was started or sponsored by a different organization. Just be sure to register each Library that you build!

Every city will have different rules. You can apply for permits, variances and approvals but it could take a long time. Watch the video below to learn more, and here are some of the strategies we’ve learned over the years:

  • 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 block 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.

 

As long as you have permission from the property owner and 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, but most do not. If you are worried, consult a lawyer for a comprehensive answer.

Small incidents of vandalism are common. Things like having a guest book stolen or a few books damaged are going to happen at one point or another. Bigger problems, like having all of your books “stolen” or your entire Library damaged, are much less common. In our annual survey of Little Free Library stewards, more than 80% of stewards reported never dealing with significant vandalism.

If you are anxious, put the Library in a highly visible spot with lots of lights. Consider installing the Library on a mobile platform so that you can wheel it closer to your home or indoors at night. Have many 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.

There is no “right time” to register and purchase a charter sign. If you know you are going to build your own Library, then we recommend registering right away. That way, you will have your charter sign ahead of time. You can add it to your Library whenever you are ready. Remember, Libraries purchased through our website automatically include a charter sign.

We offer many blueprints, building plans and how-to videos for free on the Build page of our website.

Our YouTube video below will walk you through the process of picking a safe, legal location and installing your Little Free Library on a wooden post.

Little Free Library Map

If you find a Library and it is not on the world map, then it may not be registered with our organization. We may not know it exists. Approach the nearest home or business and ask to talk the Library caretaker. Encourage him/her to register and get an official charter sign and number.

It’s easy to register. Here is what to do:

  1. Register and take advantage of our network of support services. There is a one-time payment of about $40 per Library to register by purchasing a charter sign. In addition to a charter sign, you’ll receive a steward’s packet of tips and advice, the option to add your Library to the world map, access to a private Facebook support group, and more. Remember, you only need to register if you are building your own Library. If you bought a Library through our website, a charter sign and steward’s packet are automatically included in your purchase.
  2. Optional: Add your Library to the world map. Your charter sign will be engraved with a unique charter number. Once you know your charter number, you may add your Library to the world map. This is when you can tell us where the Library is located, share the story behind it, and upload photos.

To list your Library’s location on our world map, your Library must be registered with an official charter sign on it. If you built your own Library, you need to register by purchasing a charter sign. If you purchased a Library through our online store, then your Library arrived with a charter sign attached to it and it’s already registered.

Once you have a charter sign, engraved with a unique charter number, on your Library, fill out the Add your Library to the world map form and we will add your location to our map within three business days.

Fill out an Add/Update your Library on the world map form with the information you would like to change. If your Library is changing location, enter the new address. If your Library has a new steward, enter new contact information for that steward. You can change your photos and story, too. Be sure to use your correct charter number! If you enter the wrong charter number, you could overwrite another Library’s information.

Nope. You have the choice to share your name and email, or not, when you add your Library to the world map. But consider creating a separate email address just for your Little Library. Sharing your email address is helpful. Visitors may want to reach out to you, or publishers may want to donate books to your Library.

Tag: map

If other searches are working but the Near Me search is not, then 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.

Registered Little Free Library stewards must choose to share their locations on this map by filling out an Add your Library to the World Map form. Some stewards do not wish to share their locations on this map, and therefore are not listed. A book exchange must also be registered with an official charter sign and number in order to be displayed on this map; if a book exchange is not registered, then it cannot be displayed on the map.

Like people, Little Libraries need homes. If you take your Library 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.

Use the search options directly above our world map to pick your search criteria, then hit the Search button. If you’re having trouble, watch our 2-minute video on how to use the map.

Tag: map

Yes, you can! There is a link directly below the map, or just click to open the Little Free Library world map in a larger window.

Donations

Anyone can share books in local Little Free Library book-sharing boxes! Use Little Free Library’s world map to find Little Libraries near you. Then, visit the Little Library of your choice and leave some books inside. It’s that easy! Please be respectful, though, and don’t cram books in a Library that’s already full. Speak with the homeowner or business owner where the Library is installed if you’re not sure if it’s OK to leave books.

Categories: Donations, General

If you want to give a few books, simply put them in a Little Free Library book exchange near you. Use the world map to find a Library in your area, then stop by and drop off your books! Little Free Library headquarters does not accept direct book donations.

Category: Donations

Yes, you may donate directly to Little Free Library. Monetary donations processed through our donations page are tax deductible. We will email you a receipt for your records. If you have donated other items or are wondering if the Library that you purchased is tax-deductible, please consult your tax specialist for a comprehensive answer.

Category: Donations

Donations of books or other items to individual book-sharing boxes may be tax-deductible, but please consult your tax specialist for a comprehensive answer.

Category: Donations

Maintenance

If you design and build your Library well—and the books do not just sit inside for months at a time—you shouldn’t have any problems. Make sure your Library’s door closes securely, make sure your roof has an overhang to stop water from running off the roof right into the Library, and look over our tips for building a weatherproof Library on the Build 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.

Category: Maintenance

Your first option is to leave your Library behind when you move. If your neighbors love the Library and it gets lots of visitors where it is, the best move might be to let it stay behind.

If you decide to do this, be sure to talk to the new homeowners to make sure that they know what the Library is, and that they are willing to take care of it. Also make sure that the new homeowners fill out an Add/Update your Library on the Map form with their contact information as the new stewards. That will update our records, as well as the world map. You might also want to encourage them to join our mailing list so that we can welcome them to the network and give them some tips to get started.

Your second option is to leave the Library behind, but find a new location or steward for it. You might find that your new homeowner doesn’t want to be a Little Library steward. If that’s the case, reach out to local schools, community centers, the parks department, and service groups like Girl and Boy Scouts, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, and 4-H clubs to see if anyone would be interested in hosting the Library. It’s usually not too difficult to find someone who wants a Little Library!

Your third option is to take the Library with you and install it at your new home. Remember to update our world map with your Library’s new location by filling out an Add/Update Your Library on the World Map form.

Category: Maintenance
Tags: map, stewards

If your Library is made of wood, then think of it like an exterior deck. Raw wood needs to be painted or stained to protect it from water and sun damage. Standard exterior house paints are a great option. They’re durable, inexpensive, and universally available. We recommend applying a coat of primer before painting or staining your Library; the primer is designed to bond well with wood, and will help your paint or stain adhere better. Apply more than one coat of paint or stain for extra weather protection, and reapply every 1 – 2 years, or as needed.

Some people choose to add a few coats of polyurethane varnish on top of the paint or stain, but it may not be necessary. If you’ve painted your Library with house paint, that’s more durable than varnish. Applying a new coat of paint every few years will likely protect your Library better than varnish will.

Category: Maintenance
Tags: paint, stain

First, remove all the books from inside the Library. Then spray it with a hose from the outside to expose any interior leaks. Once you have found the leaks, caulk them with a silicone caulk.

Category: Maintenance

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.

Also consider placing a dish mat or another inexpensive item on the floor of your Library. That will lift the books slightly off the floor and allow air to circulate beneath them, and it will also protect those books in case some water seeps inside when the door is opened.

Some stewards place moisture absorbers like DampRid inside their Libraries. DampRid pulls moisture out of the air and may reduce the humidity inside your Library. If this interests you, stop by your local hardware store and ask for their recommendation.

Category: Maintenance

Measure the size of window with a tape measure. Then, take those dimensions to your local hardware or home goods store. Ask them to cut a piece of Plexiglas for you according to your dimensions. Adhere the piece of Plexiglas to your Library with wood glue.

Category: Maintenance

Remember that the purpose of a Little Free Library is to share books, so perhaps the person taking all the books doesn’t have any at home, or is distributing them to others in their apartment complex, school, or retirement community. Over the years we’ve heard from many stewards who’ve discovered that a book “thief” really wasn’t a thief at all.

But if someone is repeatedly clearing out your Library and you suspect foul play, considering stamping every book in your Library or writing in sharpie on the spines to reduce the resale value. 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. One steward successfully got the police involved. 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.

Category: Maintenance

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 five or 10 copies of something, one 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.

Category: Maintenance

Ask Library users, neighbors and friends to contribute books. Reach out to local bookstores and the public library staff and ask them to donate excess stock to you. Check our Book Opportunities page regularly for giveaways and opportunities to get free or discounted books.

Keep people 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.

Category: Maintenance

Your Little Free Library can be as simple or as fancy as you’d like it to be! Some stewards enjoy adding “extras” like a guest book, motion-sensor lights for nighttime visitors, and other fun enhancements. Watch our video below for more ideas.

Category: Maintenance

If your Library is made of wood, then we recommend using a standard house paint (water-based or oil-based paints will both work fine). They’re durable, inexpensive, and available at any hardware or home goods store. Before you paint, start by applying a coat of primer. Primer is designed to bond well with wood. Then, apply a few coats of paint on top of the primer. No coats of varnish or sealant are needed if you’re using house paint. (The only time we recommend using varnish is if you painted your Library with acrylic paints that aren’t designed for outdoor use.) You could choose to stain your Library instead, but it won’t last as long as paint will.

Category: Maintenance

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