Little Free Library

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Little Free Library Ltd.
Original-2 transparent.jpg
The first Little Free Library
Founded 2009 (2009)
Founder Todd Bol[1]
Type 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[2]
Headquarters Hudson, Wisconsin
Coordinates 44°59′31″N 92°41′11″W / 44.992061°N 92.686257°W / 44.992061; -92.686257Coordinates: 44°59′31″N 92°41′11″W / 44.992061°N 92.686257°W / 44.992061; -92.686257
Todd Bol[4]
Monnie McMahon[4]
Revenue (2015)
Expenses (2015) $820,893[3]
Employees (2015)
Volunteers (2015)
Mission Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.[5]

Little Free Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[2] that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. There are more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide, in all 50 states and 70 countries. Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. The Little Free Library nonprofit is based in Hudson, Wisconsin, United States.[6]


The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin. He 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 mother, who was a book lover and school teacher. Bol shared his idea with his partner, Rick Brooks, and the idea spread rapidly, soon becoming a "global sensation".[7] Little Free Library officially incorporated on May 16, 2012,[8] and the Internal Revenue Service recognized Little Free Library as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the same year.[9][10]

The original goal was the creation of 2,150 Little Libraries, which would surpass the number of libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie. As of November 2016, there were 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide.[11]

The Little Free Library nonprofit has been honored by the National Book Foundation, the Library of Congress, Library Journal, and others for its work promoting literacy and a love of reading.[12]

Margret Aldrich wrote The Little Free Library Book to chronicle the movement.[13]

How Little Free Libraries work[edit]

A reader browsing a Little Free Library

A Little Free Library is a neighborhood book exchange where anyone passing by can take a book to read or leave a book for someone else to find.

Little Free Library owners, known as "stewards" can purchase a Library box at, or they can create their own and register it on the website. Stewards of registered Little Free Libraries receive a sign for their Library that reads "Little Free Library" and features an official charter number.[14][15] Registered Little Free Libraries are eligible to be featured on the Little Free Library World Map,[16] which lists locations with GPS coordinates and other information.

Little Free Libraries of all shapes and sizes exist, from small, brightly painted wooden houses to a larger library based on Doctor Who's TARDIS.[17][18]

Programs and activities[edit]

The Little Free Library nonprofit maintains robust programming to help bring people together, celebrate the joy of reading, and encourage positive community action. Key examples:

  • ACTION BOOK CLUB – In a new twist on the traditional book club, Little Free Library's Action Book Club invites participants read books on a particular theme, engage in lively discussions, and then complete a meaningful—and fun—group project to benefit their community. This "good reads and good deeds" program was launched in January 2017.[19]
  • KIDS, COMMUNITY, AND COPS – Police departments in cities like Los Angeles, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Minneapolis are using Little Free Library book exchanges to develop better relationships with the public. Some police departments place Little Libraries in their precincts and invite local families to book-centered events; others establish community Libraries to foster literacy and neighbor interaction.[20]
  • IMPACT FUND – Little Free Library's Impact Fund places no-cost Little Free Libraries in communities where they can truly make a difference. Recipients have included homeless shelters, schools, and other areas in need of greater book access. The Impact Fund is made possible by individual donors and partner organizations who share a vision for spreading the joy and power of sharing books. Additional dollars come from Little Free Library’s retail sales and Library registration fees.[21]

Global impact[edit]

Little Free Library in a Tokyo Metro station

While the majority of Little Free Libraries are in the United States, the book exchanges can be found in countries around the world, including Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Italy, Germany, UK, France, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Armenia, Pakistan, Qatar, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, India, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and more.


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.[22] However, in August 2013, the village approved a new ordinance that specifically allowed Little Free Library boxes to be put up on private property.[23]

In June 2014, city officials in Leawood, Kansas shut down a Little Free Library under a city ordinance prohibiting detached structures.[24] 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.[25] Another resident of the city who erected a Little Free Library was threatened with a $25 fine.[26] In July, the city council unanimously approved a temporary moratorium to permit Little Free Libraries on private property.[27]

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 only permitted libraries in commercial zones and that of the all Little Free Libraries in Shreveport, the one that was shut down had “bothered someone.”[28] The following month, the city council temporarily legalized book exchange boxes until the zoning ordinances could be amended to permanently allow them.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Durst, Kristen (7 March 2012). "'Little Free Libraries' Hope For Lending Revolution". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Little Free Library Ltd." Exempt Organizations Select Check. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Little Free Library Ltd. Guidestar. December 31, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "People of Little Free Library". Little Free Library. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  5. ^ "Little Free Library". Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  6. ^ "About Little Free Library | Little Free Library". Retrieved 2017-02-27. 
  7. ^ "Little Free Library: What People Are Saying" (PDF). Retrieved February 28, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Little Free Library, Ltd." Corporate Records. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  9. ^ "Little Free Library Ltd". Guidestar. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  10. ^ "History of Little Free Library". Little Free Library. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  11. ^ Aldrich, Margaret. "Big Little Milestone: There Are Now 50,000 Little Free Libraries Worldwide". Book Riot. November 7, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  12. ^ "Little Free Library Milestones". Little Free Library. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  13. ^ Aldrich, Margaret. The Little Free Library Book. Coffee House Press. ISBN 978-1566894074. April 14, 2015.
  14. ^ Karnowski, Steve. "Wis. Man's Little Free Library Copied Worldwide". Associated Press. Yahoo! News. December 25, 2012.
  15. ^ NBC nightly News
  16. ^ "Little Free Library World Map". Little Free Library via Google Maps. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  17. ^ Turner, Brodie. "Little Free Library: How a Loving Tribute Became a Worldwide Sensation". Good News Shared. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
  18. ^ Ford, Dick. "The Mize Tardis". Mize City Library (Mize, Mississippi). Instagram. January 4, 2016.
  19. ^ "Action Book Club". Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  20. ^ "Kids, Community, and Cops". Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Impact Fund". Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  22. ^ Stingl, Jim (10 November 2012). "Village slaps endnote on Little Libraries". Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Madison, Wisc. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  23. ^ "News & Notes: Aug. 7". Whitefish Bay Now. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  24. ^ Waxman, Olivia B. (20 June 2014). "City Forces 9-Year-Old Boy to Move 'Little Free Library' From Front Yard". Time. 
  25. ^ "Spencer's Little Free Library". Facebook. 19 June 2014. 
  26. ^ McCallister, Laura; Fowler, Brix (18 June 2014). "City to fine owners of Little Free Libraries". KFVS-TV. 
  27. ^ 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). 
  28. ^ Burris, Alexandria (30 January 2015). "Other Little Free Libraries could be ordered to cease". Shreveport Times. 
  29. ^ Burris, Alexandria (10 February 2015). "Little Free Libraries made legal — for now". Shreveport Times. 

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