Book It: Bring a Mini Library to Your Front Yard Take a book, leave a book.

An ingenious lending-library idea is sweeping the nation — see if it’s right for your neighborhood

Todd Bol has a background in international business development. More specifically: He used to help developing countries institute social change. He’d always been known to think big and globally. But this man of social generosity couldn’t have expected that, while messing around and building things on his deck one day, a dollhouse-size structure he turned into a free community library would have the global impact it does today.

Bol’s prototype spawned Little Free Library, a nonprofit that seeks to place small, accessible book exchange boxes in neighborhoods around the world. Users can purchase the boxes directly from LFL’s website, download plans to build their own or completely wing it.

Little Free Library

The concept is simple: A house-shaped box in a neighborhood holds a few dozen books. Little Free Library community members are invited to share a book, leave a book or both.

The LFL almost always uses recycled materials for the custom libraries it sells online, for an average cost of $250 to $500, but it also offers plans for making your own.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

The idea has taken off, growing from 100 libraries in 2011 to 6,000 libraries in 2013, with 2 million books shared. “By that account, we’ll have 25,000 libraries by the end of the year,” says Bol.
Little Free Library

A homeowner or another local steward, like the one shown here, takes ownership of the library, making sure it’s in good shape and that book materials are appropriate for the neighborhood.
Little Free Library

Little Free Library owners may purchase a charter for $35 that puts their library in the organization’s database and affords them discounts and information about keeping, maintaining and promoting their libraries.

Bol is most proud of the way Little Free Library is bringing communities together. “It’s started a neighborhood exchange. It gets people talking and more comfortable with their neighbors,” he says. “This leads to them helping each other.”


Almost every library is unique. This one in Northern California was built out of a used wine crate.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

The libraries work best in neighborhoods where stewards can better maintain the box. “In parks you’ll get a box full of discounts for haircuts and hamburgers,” Bol notes.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

Little Free Libraries does custom paint and build some of the boxes, even creating memorial libraries for loved ones, like this one in Houston honoring Donald F. Markgraf.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

And there’s no limit to the possibilities. For this library, also in Houston, the owner added tiny stairs, a drawer handle and colorful Mardi Gras beads.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

In Pasadena, California, a brightly colored library has major curb appeal.
Book It: How To Build a Little Library in Your Front Yard

Little Free Libraries are all over the world. Go to the organization’s site for a world map of front-yard libraries and to see how to make your own.

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