FAQs

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What are the rules of Little Free Library?

A Little Free Library is a free book-sharing box where anyone may take a book or share a book. They function on the honor system. You do not need to share a book in order to take one. If you take a book or two from a little library, try to bring some to share to that same library, or another in your area, when you can. (Tip: use Little Free Library’s mobile app to easily find libraries near you!)

Registered little libraries have a primary caretaker, called a Little Free Library steward. The steward is usually the person who put up the library. The steward takes care of basic maintenance like keeping the library clean and inviting, but it is up to everyone who uses the library to keep it stocked with good books.

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Does Little Free Library Ltd have a trademark on the phrase “Little Free Library”?

Yes, “Little Free Library” is a trademarked term. Little Free Library Ltd first filed for a trademark for the phrase “Little Free Library” on February 21, 2012. It was registered by the US Patent and Trademark Office as a protected mark on October 29, 2013.

Our trademark applies to the full phrase “Little Free Library” as well as variations like “Little Library,” “Little Free Libraries,” and any language that could create confusion. The trademark covers a variety of goods and services. As our organization and offerings evolve and expand, it warrants adding new categories of trademark coverage. Get answers to common questions about our trademark.

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If I bought a library from you do I still need to register it?

No, you do not! If you bought a Little Free Library through our online store, your library is automatically registered. A charter sign is included with your purchase, though it may ship separately. All you need to do is wait for your library and charter sign to arrive and then set up your steward account to add your library’s location to the mobile app and web map.

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Can I buy a charter sign/registration as a gift for someone else?

Yes, absolutely! When you register by purchasing a charter sign, you will receive an email prompting you to set up your steward account within 72 hours. If you are not the steward, forward that email on to the person who will be the steward. Alternatively, you can set up your steward account then choose to transfer the library to the actual steward.

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Who is my local contact person?

Check our web map and mobile app 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.

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How do I contact a Little Free Library steward in my area?

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 the Little Free Library app or web map. Introduce yourself! That’s part of the whole idea.

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Can anyone use a Little Free Library? Do I have to return books I take?

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 Free Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside. This way, we all win!

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What is your Tax ID number? Can I download your W9?

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

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Can I use your logo?

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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How can I find Little Free Libraries near me?

Use the Little Free Library mobile app or web map! If you find a library and it is not registered, please ask the steward to visit our website and register.

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How many Little Free Libraries are there?

There are more than 150,000 registered Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in 115 countries worldwide. Find some in your area using the Little Free Library mobile app and web map.

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How did Little Free Library start and is there an organization behind it?

Yes, Little Free Library is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that builds community, inspires readers, and expands book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led little libraries. To learn more about us and how this worldwide movement got started visit our About page!

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How do I donate books?

Anyone can share books in local Little Free Library book-sharing boxes! Use Little Free Library’s web map or mobile app to find little libraries near you. Then, visit the 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.

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What is a Little Free Library?

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.”

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How do I get my Homeowners’ Association (HOA) to allow a Little Free Library?

If you live in a community with a Homeowner’s Association (HOA), you will likely need to get permission from the HOA before you put up a Little Free Library book-sharing box. Here are some tips to help get your HOA on board:

  • Be friendly and show that you are willing to comply with HOA regulations. The HOA may have concerns about your library’s appearance, so show that you’re willing to design the library to address their concerns. If they’re worried about liability, show that you’re willing to purchase liability insurance.
  • Demonstrate the value of Little Free Library book-boxes: they provide access to books 24/7, which is especially important for kids when they aren’t in school, but adults need access to books, too! Little libraries also strengthen community connections and encourage neighborliness.
  • Show the HOA that you’re prepared to be an active steward that will keep your little library clean, attractive, and in good shape. Let them know that if the library is damaged, you will be responsible for repairs and will take care of them in a timely fashion. Nobody wants a headache or one more responsibility, so show them that you will handle all of the details so they have nothing to worry about!
  • Provide the HOA with an example of amended zoning ordinances to make it easy for them to amend the bylaws to allow little libraries.

If you try these suggestions but still can’t get approval, then perhaps you could work around the issue by creating a “temporary” little library. You could fill a wagon full of books and wheel it around the neighborhood! Or you could install a Little Free Library on a rolling wooden platform and roll it out of your garage a few times each week. Some stewards have discovered that some community spaces like the neighborhood pool or public park aren’t governed by the HOA and were able to place little libraries in those spaces instead.

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How do I install a library on a wooden post?

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.

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Where can I find Little Free Library blueprints or building plans?

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

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I’m planning to start a little library, when should I register?

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.

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Won’t someone vandalize the library?

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

If you are anxious, put the library in a highly visible spot. Don’t put it in a public park where no one will see if someone vandalizes it. Rather, install it in the front yard of a home beneath a bright light. 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.

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Are there any liability issues with starting a Little Free Library?

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.

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Can I install a library on public property? What permissions do I need?

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.
  • If you have to seek approval from local authorities, it may help to show them an example of amended zoning ordinances from another city that allow Little Free Library book-sharing boxes.
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Can anyone start a Little Free Library? Even an organization?

Yes, anyone may build a library. Check out the Build page of our website 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!

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Does a Little Free Library have to be open 24/7?

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 listed on the Little Free Library mobile app and web 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.

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Does a Little Free Library have to be outdoors?

Nope. We have no rules about where you may install a little library, but be sure to check with the property owner 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.

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I can’t build a library or afford one of yours, what do I do?

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 re-purposing something that already has a door and space for books inside. Check out this blog post for ideas.

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If I buy a library through your online store, what does it come with?

Every library that we sell through our online store comes with a charter sign and a steward’s packet included, though they may ship separately from the library. 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.

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How much does it cost to start a library?

How much it costs to start a library depends on whether you are building your own library or buying a pre-built library or kit from our online store.

  • If you’re building your own library, then your main cost is materials. That could range from $5 if you use recycled materials to $150 if you buy all new lumber and hardware. If you use recycled materials, make sure they’re high enough quality to be weatherproof. Cheap particle board or interior plywood won’t last outdoors. We recommend using exterior plywood, pine or cedar and painting it with standard exterior house paint for weather protection.
  • There is a one-time payment of about $40 USD to register each library that you build. When you register, you get a charter sign printed with a unique charter number. Your charter number is the key that lets you set up your steward account and add your library’s location to the Little Free Library app and web map. You also get access to discounted books and a private Facebook support group.
  • Think about installation costs, too, like a wooden post. Those items usually cost around $30 at your local home goods store or buy a pre-assembled post from our online store. Check out our recommended library installation instructions, too.
  • If you purchase a library through our website, library prices start around $250 USD and your library is automatically registered. A charter sign is included with your library purchase, though it may ship separately.
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How do I start a Little Free 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.

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What if my library travels around with me, where is it listed 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.

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Why are there little libraries in my neighborhood that aren’t on the map?

Registered Little Free Library stewards must choose to share their locations on the Little Free Library mobile app and web map. 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.

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Do I have to share my name and contact information on the map?

Nope. You have the choice to share your name and email, or not, when you set up your steward account and add your library’s location to the app and web 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.

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There’s a library in my area that’s not on your map, what do I do?

If you find a library and it is not on the Little Free Library app or web 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.

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How can I find Little Free Libraries near me?

Use the Little Free Library mobile app or web map! If you find a library and it is not registered, please ask the steward to visit our website and register.

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If I run a Facebook Fundraiser on behalf of Little Free Library, where do the funds go?

Facebook Fundraisers are an easy way to raise funds for the Little Free Library organization! But please note that if you run a Facebook Fundraiser on behalf of the Little Free Library (LFL) nonprofit organization using our tax-exempt status, any funds raised will be transferred directly to the LFL organization to support our nonprofit programs. In accordance with IRS regulations, we cannot apply those funds towards a purchase in our online store.

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Are book donations to Little Free Libraries tax deductible?

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.

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Can I make a tax-deductible donation to Little Free Library?

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.

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Can I donate books?

If you want to give a few books, simply put them in a Little Free Library book exchange near you. Use the Little Free Library mobile app or web 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.

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How do I donate books?

Anyone can share books in local Little Free Library book-sharing boxes! Use Little Free Library’s web map or mobile app to find little libraries near you. Then, visit the 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.

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What paint should I use on my library?

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.

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Why does my wooden library post have cracks in it?

Our library posts are made from real lumber, usually cedar and pine. Cedar, in particular, is prone to “checking,” or developing cracks. This is a very common occurrence. It happens because lumber naturally has a lot of water in it. As the wood takes in or loses moisture from its environment, it will shrink or swell, sometimes causing the wood to split. This is a natural process and it won’t compromise the structural integrity of the post. You can apply a new coat of paint or stain to minimize the appearance of the cracks, if you’d like. Learn more about why real wood “checks.”

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The Plexiglas window on my library is broken, how do I replace it?

Watch our two-minute video on how to replace a Little Free Library Plexiglas window or door.

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Are there add-ons or enhancements I should consider for my library?

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 bookmotion-sensor lights for nighttime visitors, and other fun enhancements. Watch our video below for more ideas.

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What if we run out of books? How do we keep the library stocked?

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.

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What if someone places inappropriate books inside the library?

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.

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I think someone is stealing books from my library and selling them, what do I do?

Remember that the purpose of a Little Free Library is to share books—you can’t really steal from it. 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. 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.

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Condensation is forming inside my library, how do I fix it?

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.

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I think my library is leaking, how do I fix it?

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.

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What is the recommended maintenance for a Little Free Library?

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.

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I’m moving, what do I do with my Little Free Library?

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. Arrange to transfer your library to the new homeowners so that they can maintain its information on the Little Free Library web map and mobile app.

If the new homeowners don’t want the library, then you could uninstall the library and gift it to another community member who does want it.

Your second option is to take the library with you and install it at your new home. If you go this route, be sure to read our help doc on what to do if you’re moving with your Little Free Library.

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My area gets lots of rain or snow, how can I weatherproof my library?

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 down the sides and into the library; and look over our tips for building a weatherproof library on the Build section of our website. 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.

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