Little Free Library FAQs

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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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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 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!

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.

 

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 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.

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.

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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