Little Free Library FAQs
Starting a Library
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.
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.
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.