Sir Owen, Little Free Library #26610, is a restored British Phone Booth. And he is epic. But how did he come to life?
Here, stewards Brent and Maren Jensen share their story, plus their do’s and don’ts when it comes to starting a Library.
How did you decide where to install your Library? Did you have to get any approvals?
We began by contacting the city planner. It took him a couple of days to research the city code and talk with planners from other cities. The short answer was, “there is nothing in code which explicitly prohibits what you want to do, but nothing in code which explicitly permits it either”. Thus, making it something that the whole neighborhood would want and appreciate right from the beginning was key. A few calls to the utilities to make sure we weren’t digging over any utility lines and we were finally ready to move forward.
How did you get your neighborhood excited about it?
Based on a suggestion from littlefreelibrary.org, we decided to deliver fliers to our neighbors for a book drive, letting them know that an LFL was coming, and asking for book donations to fill it. We included a time our kids would be coming around with our wagon collecting books, as well as including the LFL website address to learn more about what it was going to be. Not only did we get a number of donations, but also a lot of questions and excitement.
Finally it was time to open. We decided to host a simple grand opening party, and delivered fliers again to the same group of houses the night before the party. We scheduled the party for an hour in the early evening and bought popsicles for treats, and probably had between 50 and 60 neighbors stop by over the course of 90 minutes.
What are the dos and don’ts of starting a Little Free Library?
Do check out all of the amazing resources on the littlefreelibrary.org website– it will help you think of things you hadn’t thought of, and let you use the best ideas and not have to recreate the wheel yourself for everything.
Do involve your neighborhood from the very start.
Do check with your city, HOA, easements, and other zoning laws.
Don’t feel overwhelmed. We went a little crazy with ours, but these are meant to be simple! Don’t let a fear of not knowing where to start prevent you from starting. Start with the website.
Don’t get discouraged. Depending on your community, there might be many LFLs already, or you might be blazing the trail. Most people, once they know about LFLs, are excited and supportive of them. But if they’ve never heard of them before, LFLs are perceived as different, and in many cities or HOAs, different is seen as scary. Use the website materials to build familiarity and consensus.
What has the upkeep been like?
Maybe an hour or so a week. We like to peek in for a few minutes every day to see if we need to put out more books or bookmarks, check for any new donations or sign ins to the log book, and generally just bask in LFL awesomeness. We probably put new books in and/or selectively change out titles about once a week.
Was there any opposition to the Library and if so, what were the main concerns?
None so far. The goal is to give it a real sense of community ownership that everyone has a stake in and feels part of. The response has been amazing so far.
What sort of books were made available?
Because of the size of the booth, we probably keep between one and two hundred books in stock at a time (yay for donations, library surplus sales, and thrift stores!). We have 5 shelves, the lowest for picture/board books; then working upwards with a shelf each for new reader elementary reader books; tween/middle reader books; young adult books; and books for grown ups. What seems to move the quickest thus far are the middle reader and YA books, and generally fiction for all ages (think: something interesting like you’d throw in your bag for a weekend trip).