Little Free Library
A Little Free Library
|Type||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Purpose||To inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.|
Little Free Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes neighborhood book exchanges, usually in the form of a public bookcase. More than 90,000 public book exchanges are registered with the organization and branded as Little Free Libraries. Through Little Free Libraries, present in 91 countries, millions of books are exchanged each year, with the aim of increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. The Little Free Library nonprofit organization is based in Hudson, Wisconsin, United States.
The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 by the late Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin. Bol mounted a wooden container, designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse, on a post on his lawn and filled it with books as a tribute to his late mother, a book lover and school teacher who had recently died. Bol shared his idea with his partner, Rick Brooks, and together they built and installed more of the bookhouses in different areas of the Midwestern United States. After a while, the idea started to spread.
Little Free Library officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization on May 16, 2012, and the Internal Revenue Service recognized Little Free Library as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization later that year.
Bol's original goal was the creation of 2,510 Little Libraries. This would surpass the number of libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie, in a program where library buildings were constructed and endowed in cities across the United States. That goal was met in 2012.
The movement also was adopted internationally. By November 2016, there were 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 85 countries worldwide. Margret Aldrich wrote The Little Free Library Book to chronicle the movement.
As of August 2019 the number of Little Free Libraries has increased to more than 90,000 such bookhouses in 91 countries around the world.
Legacy and honors
The Little Free Library organization has used funds raised to donate book exchanges through their Impact Library Program and create a reading program called the Action Book Club. It combines reading with community service.
Like other public book exchanges, a passerby can take a book to read or leave one for someone else to find. The organization relies on volunteer "stewards" to construct, install, and maintain book exchange boxes. For a book exchange box to be registered and legally use the Little Free Library brand name, stewards must purchase a finished book exchange, a kit or, for a DIY project, a charter sign, which contains the "Little Free Library" text and official charter number.
Registered Little Free Libraries can appear on the Little Free Library World Map, which lists locations with GPS coordinates and other information. Little Free Libraries are located around the world; the majority are located in the United States.
Little Free Libraries are typically welcomed by communities; if zoning problems arise, however, local governments often work with residents to find solutions. In late 2012, the village of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, denied permission to potential Little Free Library projects and required that an existing Little Free Library be removed because of a village ordinance that prohibited structures in front yards. Village trustees also worried about inappropriate material being placed in the boxes. However, in August 2013, the village approved a new ordinance that specifically allowed Little Free Library boxes to be put up on private property.
On June 17, 2015 Portland, Oregon Mayor Charlie Hales announced a major liberalization of public space when he declared it "Little Community Kiosk day". On that day, he and the Portland City Council unanimously established a new "encroachment" code, providing automatic permits and insurance coverage for every person who installs a community kiosk on either side of a public sidewalk and within the public right of way. The two sides are known as either a "furnishing strip" or "frontage strip". The ordinance provides height, width, and setback guidelines that also address certain ADA requirements related to detection by walking sticks used by alter-abled people. As of that date, every residential block is able to feature installations of a widest possible spectrum of interactive kiosks, including libraries. This was partly approved as a means to fight youth gang violence. Shortly afterward members of three gangs in North Portland participated in the design, construction, and installation of one hundred-fifty little libraries located in public spaces. The number was established to honor the 150th anniversary of Portland's public library system.
In June 2014, city officials in Leawood, Kansas shut down a Little Free Library under a city ordinance prohibiting detached structures. The family of the nine-year-old boy who built the structure created a Facebook page to support the amendment of Leawood's city code. Another resident of the city who erected a Little Free Library was threatened with a $25 fine. In July, the city council unanimously approved a temporary moratorium to permit Little Free Libraries on private property.
On January 29, 2015, the Metropolitan Planning Commission in Shreveport, Louisiana shut down a Little Free Library. Zoning administrator Alan Clarke said that city ordinances permitted libraries only in commercial zones and that the one that was shut down had “bothered someone.” The following month, the city council temporarily legalized book exchange boxes until the zoning ordinances could be amended to permanently allow them.
In North America, Little Free Libraries, and, implicitly, other public bookcases, have been criticized for being placed mostly in neighborhoods of wealthier, well-educated people, where there are already high-quality traditional public libraries nearby. The commentator encourages groups to assist neighborhoods where such facilities are lacking.
Little Free Pantries and Blessing Boxes
As of June 2019, the United States had more than 600 Little Free Pantries, and more can be found in Canada, The Netherlands and Australia. The Little Pantries function similarly to the libraries, as places where anyone can bring food and anyone can take food. Personal hygiene items such as soap and toothbrushes are also distributed. The first Little Free Pantry opened May 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Another 100 were installed within months, including pantries in New Zealand. Items not allowed, according to informal rules, include razors, alcohol, and breakable glass containers.
Blessing Boxes, which are similar to the Little Free Pantries, are often sponsored by churches. They provide a place for sharing food and other useful goods, such as clothing. People are encouraged to "pay it forward" and donate whatever they can, such as a can of beans. "The idea is that anyone walking by who may be struggling can use the goods to make ends meet and get through the day."
- Public bookcase, for history and generic aspects of the practice
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- Aldrich, Margaret. "Big Little Milestone: There Are Now 50,000 Little Free Libraries Worldwide". Book Riot. November 7, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- Aldrich, Margaret. The Little Free Library Book. Coffee House Press. ISBN 978-1566894074. April 14, 2015.
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- "Action Book Club". Little Free Library.
- "Registration Process". Little Free Library.
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- Ford, Dick. "The Mize Tardis". Mize City Library (Mize, Mississippi). Instagram. January 4, 2016.
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- "News & Notes: Aug. 7". Whitefish Bay Now. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
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- Baumann, Caroline (7 July 2014). "'Little Free Libraries' legal in Leawood thanks to 9-year-old Spencer Collins". Kansas City Star (updated 8 July 2014).
- Burris, Alexandria (30 January 2015). "Other Little Free Libraries could be ordered to cease". Shreveport Times.
- Burris, Alexandria (10 February 2015). "Little Free Libraries made legal – for now". Shreveport Times.
- CApps, Kriston (May 3, 2017). "Against Little Free Libraries". CityLab. Retrieved 2020-03-15.
- Natanson, Hannah (17 June 2019). "Little Free Pantries are like Little Free Libraries — but with food". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
- Rascon, Jacob (February 8, 2018). "How simple 'blessing boxes' are helping thousands in need". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-12-28.
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