Little Free Library

Little free library

Have you heard of the Little Free Library? I became obsessed with these a few months ago. It’s basically an enclosed box where people put books, to pass along to another reader. The next reader can return the book or not, give another book or not. There are different styles of Little Free Libraries, and you can decorate them. There are gorgeous ones on Pinterest, of course.

I love the generosity of it, as well as the opportunity to share books with others (I am a notorious book pusher). I had Pinterest-fueled dreams of whimsical, inviting little treasure boxes, with a careful balance of adult and kid books, fiction and non-fiction, cookbooks and poetry. I would look out my window and see friends and neighbors, strangers and acquaintances, delightedly rummaging through and scurrying off with their finds.


Then I started researching how to get a Little Free Library. And that’s where I started to get intimidated. You can buy a pre-assembled one, but they get expensive fast. There are plans available to build your own. The problem is that I’m not handy. Like, at all. I once returned a 90% constructed two-drawer file cabinet because I could not get it the rest of the way there. I carried it back to Staples, no box, and basically dropped it on the counter and glared at the clerk. He, wisely, took it back without question. So the idea that I could work with actual blueprints and construct an object that could hold books and withstand wind, rain, and snow, was pretty out of the question. Even if I bought the preassembled kind, I’d still have to install it in my yard without it listing to one side depending on where the Harry Potter books were placed.

While I was still sorting through all this, the best thing possible happened: A Little Free Library went up in the park at the end of my block. I didn’t have to do anything! It just appeared. I am still not sure who was the impetus for it, but I am forever grateful to that person. Though it’s not in my yard, it’s close enough that I can see people looking through it. I keep a close eye on it, ready to dash out with my curated selections, but it’s always well-stocked. What’s been amazing is that what I had planned as a chance to be generous has instead become an opportunity for me to benefit from the generosity of others.

I got an email the other day from the dad of my daughter’s friend. He said that he and his daughter saw the Little Free Library in the park. His daughter loved it so much that she wanted to share her favorite book, Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. She was especially hopeful that my daughter would find the book, and his email was a little nudge to help that happen. My daughter and I, of course, immediately rushed to the Little Library and grabbed the book. We’ve been loving Edward Tulane. For those not familiar with the book, it’s the story of a beloved stuffed rabbit who goes from owner to owner, eventually finding his way back to the first little girl who loved him. I think we’ll be putting the book back in the Free Library when we’re finished. And I might email that dad to give him a little nudge, so Edward can find his way back home.

Katharine Manning writes middle grade novels and has three kids under ten. She pushes books on people at KidBookList. You can find her on Twitter @SuperKate, and online at 

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Kate Hillyer
Kate Hillyer writes, runs, and drinks plenty of tea in our Nation's Capitol. She is a poetry judge for the Cybils, and blogs here and at The Winged Pen. An essay she wrote appears in the anthology Raised by Unicorns. You can find her at and on Twitter as @SuperKate.
  1. I’ve been on the fence, but you’ve talked me into it, Kate! Our street gets a lot of foot traffic, and I have the perfect tree to put my little library on.

    • Yay, Laura! I can’t wait to see pictures!

  2. I love Little Free Libraries, but have never seen one in person, only on blogs. Sounds like we need to get some started here!

  3. I love these and we now have lots of them in our county. Many of them were made and they were displayed at our library so the public could vote on their favorite. They even had a county map in the library where we could suggest places for them to be put up. They are now all over Jackson Co, WV. A while back I posted a little about them on my blog – Like you, I would love to have one in my yard.

    • What a great community event! It makes me want to visit your county!

  4. I wanted one so badly in my front yard, but where our house is – I know it wouldn’t get seen by many people. But luckily there are several around town and one really near by, so I drop books off in those!

    It’s actually kinda cool because our town put one up in several parks around town, so there are books everywhere for people to find!

    • That’s so great! I love the way it gets people excited about reading and about sharing books.

  5. I would love to have one of these, but I live in a gated community where it would not be allowed. 8-( I haven’t read Edward Tulane, but it sounds like it might be fun to read with my granddaughter this summer. Thanks for the post.

  6. I was honored to paint a LFL as a fund-raising auction item for the Decatur Book Festival several years ago. It has been an endless source of pride for me – I’m a huge fan! 🙂 e

  7. I love the idea. I’ll have to look into getting one in our area.

  8. I love these, and would have had so much fun with them as a young reader 🙂

    • My kids love it! They get so excited to see new books in there.

  9. We’re about to have one in our neighborhood, and I can’t wait to donate a big pile of kids’ books!

    • That’s so great! Have fun!

  10. My daughter is home sick today and Edward Tulane has been keeping us company. So glad to have him!

  11. Love the photos of these little libraries! Never thought about sending someone to the library for a particular book.