This post is part of Little Free Library’s Steward Spotlight series! This series delves into the diversity of steward experience and uncovers the challenges, surprises, and best practices of Little Free Library volunteer stewards around the world.
Laura Webb is the steward of Little Free Library #69267 in Washington D.C. We reached out to her to discuss the challenges of running a Little Free Library in a big city.
How long have you had a Little Free Library?
“We’ve had a Little Library since 2016. It was my partner Jack’s 30th birthday gift to me. It’s shaped like a little red schoolhouse because at the time I was just starting my career as an early childhood educator. The Library has always been located in Washington, D.C., but for the first year and a half it was in Trinidad, a busy residential area with a lot of foot traffic.
“Recently we moved to Anacostia, so it’s still located in Washington, D.C., but the neighborhood is a little bit quieter. It has always been right in front of our house, mounted on a kid-height post, so it’s easy for kids to reach in on their own (and easy for us to restock.) We recently started decorating it for each season—in December it was covered in garland and pine cones; this month (February) it’s decked out in red tinsel and sparkly pink hearts.”
What type of books move the fastest in your Library?
“We stock our Library with all kids books. The materials that go the fastest are board books (for toddlers) and graphic novels. When we first started out, we only had traditional kids books, but one day some little girls rang the doorbell and asked if we could start carrying graphic novels for them. We were excited to get such an enthusiastic request and we’ve tried to stock them ever since!”
How many books do you think go through your Library weekly?
“It really varies over time. When the weather is warm and foot traffic is high, we can go through 50 books in a week. During winter months with fewer people walking around the neighborhood, it’s more like 5 – 10 per week.”
What surprised you the most about being a steward?
“When we first put it up, we loved having a Little Free Library and would occasionally receive little notes or donations from anonymous neighbors telling us how much they liked it. Then, the first Halloween, we ran out of candy and started inviting kids to take books out of the Library instead. The response was incredible! Kids were genuinely excited to get to pick a book to take home.
“It started a Halloween reading tradition so this year we gave out candy and books together. It’s really wonderful when kids come back to share the books they got from the Library over the year and tell us about how they’ve become better readers and how proud their teachers are of them. Hearing kids share so enthusiastically about their joy in reading made it the best night of the year for our family.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced with your Library?
“In the early days, it felt like a few kids would take all of the books at once, and they would rarely come back. Some very diligent neighbors appointed themselves as co-librarians and could often be heard telling kids to take one or two books at a time, and they could get more when they returned them. It was fun to see how the block got involved. Other neighbors started going out of their way to add books to the Library if we went out of town and they saw it wasn’t getting refilled. It quickly became an unspoken neighborhood project.”
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a Library, what would it be?
“Find a great little used bookstore in your area, and ask early and often about sales and discount pricing. We found several in Washington, D.C. that had discount pricing for teachers and Little Library stewards. It made the initial stocking of the Library way more affordable than we’d expected. We also recommend stamping books with a custom stamp—who knows where in the world the books may end up. It’s a fun way to keep an eye out for “your” books!”