Little Free Library FAQs

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General Information

What is a Little Free Library and what’s so special about it?

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.”

How many Little Free Libraries are there?

As of June 2016, there are over 40,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U.S. states and over 70 countries around the world.

How can I find Little Free Libraries near me?

Visit the world map of Little Free Libraries. Use the search bar above the map to find Little Free Library book exchanges near you. If you find a Library and it is not registered, please ask the steward to visit our website and register.

How 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 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.

Can I use your logo and where can I download it?

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.

How can I start a Little Free Library?

Scroll down to the section below titled I Want A Little Free Library to learn how to start your own, or click here.

How did this get started and is Little Free Library a registered non-profit organization?

Yes, Little Free Library, Ltd. is a registered 501c3 nonprofit. There is a small team of staff and volunteers behind the scenes. We maintain the website and world map. We also donate hundreds of Little Libraries every year and provide support to thousands of Library stewards. To learn how this worldwide movement got its start, click here.

Can I donate to support Little Free Library and is my donation tax-deductible?

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.

I need access to your W-9. What is Little Free Library's TIN?

You may access Little Free Library’s W-9 here.

Can anyone give or take books from any Little Free Library? Do I have to return the exact book 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 Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside. This way, we all win!

How do I get in touch with a Little Free Library steward in my neighborhood?

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

I found a Library but it's not on your World Map. What do I do?

If you find a Library and it is not on the world map, then it may not be registered. We may not know it exists. Please do your part. 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.

Starting a Little Free Library

I want to have a Little Free Library in my neighborhood. How do I get started?

That’s great, we’re excited to have you join the network! Start by visiting the I Want a Little Free Library page of our website. Our blog is a great resource, too.

What costs are there to start a Little Free Library?

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

  • If you are building your own Library, then your main cost is materials. That could range from $5 to $150. There is also one-time payment of about $45 to register each Library that you build. When you register, you get a charter sign engraved with a unique charter number. Your unique charter number gives you the option to add your Library to the world map. You also get access to discounted books, resources and support from us. Think about installation costs, too, like a wooden post or hardware. Those items usually cost around $30. Check out our recommended installation instructions.
  • If you purchase a Library through our website, then you don’t need to register separately. The cost of registration is included in your purchase. Your Library will come with a charter sign included. You will still want to think about installation costs, though.
If I purchase a Library through your website, what does it come with? Installation materials?

Every Library that we sell through our online catalog 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 have installation instructions on the Build page of our website.

I can't build a Library myself 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

You could also raise funds yourself using these great tips. Finally, don’t count yourself out. You can build one! Try re-purposing something that already has a door and space for books inside. Check out this blog post for ideas.

I live in a city that gets a lot of snow/rain/hail/humidity. Have you had trouble with books being damaged by weather conditions?

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. Look over our tips for building a sturdy, 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.

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 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. Click here for more information on where to install your Library and zoning regulations.

Does a Little Free Library have to be available to the public 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 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.

Can just anyone build a Library? What if I represent a larger organization?

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!

Can Little Free Library book exchanges be too close together?

We don’t think so. We know of Libraries located right next to each other that are both successful. The key is to have an active, involved steward for each Library who support each other. Before you install your Library, chat with the steward of the existing Library. See how you might work together to be successful.

Can I put it on public property? What are the city regulations that affect this?

Every city will have different rules. You can apply for permits, variances and approvals but it could take a long time. Here is what we have learned so far:

  • 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. Check out this blog post for more information.
Are there any liability issues involved in establishing a Little Free Library?

As long as you have permission from the landowner, 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. If you are worried, consult a lawyer for a comprehensive answer.

Won't someone vandalize the Little Library?

We have found that small incidences 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 the entire Library damaged is much less common.

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.

Who is my local contact person?

Check the world map to see if anyone near you is a steward or supporter, then contact that person for advice. There are no official representatives of the nonprofit Little Free Library outside of the state of Wisconsin.

Registering a Little Free Library & the World Map

I'm confused by the whole registration process. How does that work?

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 $45 per Library to register. You will receive a charter sign, a steward’s packet of tips and advice, the option to add your Library to the world map and more when you register. 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.
How do I add my Library to the world map?

If you built your own Library, you need to register. If you purchased a Library through our website, then your Library is automatically registered. When you register, you receive a charter sign engraved with a unique charter number. You must know your charter number to add your Library to the map. Once you have a charter sign and number, simply fill out the Add your Library to the world map form.

When should I register my Library and get a charter sign?

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.

What if I want to buy a charter sign but I'm not the Library's steward?

No problem. When you register, we will not automatically save you in our records as the Library steward. That just tells us where we should ship the charter sign(s). 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.

When will my steward's packet and charter sign arrive? How do I know if I successfully paid?

Your steward’s packet and charter sign will arrive within 3-4 weeks of the purchase date. We do not send out tracking numbers. We automatically send a confirmation email after you register and purchase a charter sign, too.

I ordered a Library from your website. Do I still need to register and get a charter sign?

No, you do not! If you bought a Little Free Library through our online catalog, 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.

I just got my official charter sign! Do I need to protect it from the outdoors?

We paint every charter sign with quality exterior paint that protects it from rain or snow. However, it is a good idea to apply a coat of varnish to the sign every few years to keep it in tiptop shape. Click here for tips to care for a charter sign over time.

If my Library is already on the World Map, how can I update it?

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.

Do I have to list my contact information on the map?

Nope. You have the choice to share your name and email, or not, when you add your Library to the world map. If you do not want to share your personal email on the map, create 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.

Do I have to list the exact location of my Library when I register on the map?

No, but it certainly makes it easier to find! When you add your Library to the world map, you may choose to list your street address or just GPS coordinates.

My Little Library and others in my area were on the old map. Why aren't they on this new map?

We transferred as many Little Free Library locations from the old map as we could, but we know that several thousand did not make the switch. We created the old map using free Google software, which only allowed us to transfer about 1,000 locations to the new map. You may not see your Little Library or others in your area on this new map. If you do not, simply add your Library to the world map. We will add your location to the new map within about 3 business days. We will email you as soon as your Library is back on the map, too.

Why doesn't my Library show up when I search by steward's name?

When you added your Library to the world map, you chose whether you wanted your name to be visible on the map or not. If you did not display your name, then you cannot search the map for your Library based on steward’s name.

Why doesn't the Near Me search function work?

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 in your browser settings.

What if my Library will be traveling with me when I go on trips?

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.

Maintaining a Little Free Library

What is the recommended maintenance for a Little Free Library?

If the Library is made of wood, then think of it like an exterior deck. It will need to be sealed for protection from the elements initially and then again every few years. Stop by your local hardware store or paint shop and ask what sealant they recommend based on the type of wood you used to build your Little Library. We like Daich Hi-Build Clear Thick Acrylic Sealer and Sikkens Cetol Translucent Wood Finish, but it’s up to you. Libraries with art work on them should have several coats of sealer to be safe.

What are the dimensions or paint colors of a Library I purchased from you?

Dimensions for every Library we sell along with paint colors for many of our Libraries are available on this document.

If a Library is leaking, what is the best way to figure out where the leak is and how do I fix it?

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

Condensation is forming on the inside of my Library. How do I fix that?

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.

My Library's front window is broken, how do I replace it?

Measure the size of window with a tape measure. Then, take those dimensions and head 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.

Won't people steal the books?

No. You can’t steal a free book. And if you have a good steward and lots of active users, eventually someone who tries to “steal” books will realize that it’s not a good thing to do. An official Little Free Library stamp in the books will also help prevent used bookstores from buying them. If someone is repeatedly clearing out your Library, 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.

What if someone places inappropriate books in my 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 5 or 10 copies of something, 1 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.

What if we run out of books?

Ask Library users, neighbors and friends to contribute books. Keep them 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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