Little Free Library

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Little Free Library Ltd.
Little Free Library, Sandweiler-101.jpg
A Little Free Library
Founded2009 (2009)
FounderTodd Bol
Type501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[1]
PurposeTo inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.[3]
HeadquartersHudson, Wisconsin
Coordinates44°59′31″N 92°41′11″W / 44.9920°N 92.6863°W / 44.9920; -92.6863Coordinates: 44°59′31″N 92°41′11″W / 44.9920°N 92.6863°W / 44.9920; -92.6863
Monnie McMahon[4]
Revenue (2016)
Expenses (2016)$1,049,926[5]
Employees (2016)
Volunteers (2016)

Little Free Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[1] that aims to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. More than 75,000 public book exchanges are registered with the organization and branded as Little Free Libraries. Through Little Free Libraries, present in 88 countries, millions of books are exchanged each year, with the aim of increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.[6][7] The Little Free Library nonprofit organization is based in Hudson, Wisconsin, United States.[8]


Little Free Library in a Tokyo Metro station

The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 by the late Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin.[9] 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 mother, who was a book lover and school teacher and had recently died.[10] Bol shared his idea with his partner, Rick Brooks, and together they built more of them in different areas of the Midwestern United States.[10] Bol set a goal of establishing 2,510 libraries in order to exceed the number of Carnegie Libraries.[11] After a while, the idea started to spread.[10][12]

Little Free Library officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization on May 16, 2012,[13] and the Internal Revenue Service recognized Little Free Library as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization later that year.[14][15]

Bol's original goal was the creation of 2,510 Little Libraries, which would surpass the number of libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie.[16] That goal was met in 2012.[16] As of November 2016, there were 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 85 countries worldwide.[17][10]

As of August 2018 the number of Little Free Libraries has expanded to include more than 75,000 libraries in 88 countries around the world.[11] The 75,000th one was established at Jenks East Elementary in Jenks, Oklahoma, on August 30, 2018.[18]

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.[19]

Margret Aldrich wrote The Little Free Library Book to chronicle the movement.[20]

The Little Free Library organization has used funds raised to donate book exchanges and create a reading program called the Action Book Club.[21][22]


A reader browsing a Little Free Library

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,[23] which contains the "Little Free Library" text and official charter number.[24][25]

Registered Little Free Libraries can appear on the Little Free Library World Map, which lists locations with GPS coordinates and other information.[26] Little Free Libraries are located around the world; the majority are located in the United States.

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.[26][27][28]

In September 2016, LFL announced a collaboration with the World Peace Prayer Society on its Peace Pole Project to offer a new Peace Pole Library.[29] It features the standard Peace Pole message of peace - "May Peace Prevail on Earth” - in a six-foot library. Some of these new libraries were installed at locations significant to the civil rights movement, such as the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.


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.[30] However, in August 2013, the village approved a new ordinance that specifically allowed Little Free Library boxes to be put up on private property.[31]

In June 2014, city officials in Leawood, Kansas shut down a Little Free Library under a city ordinance prohibiting detached structures.[32] 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.[33] Another resident of the city who erected a Little Free Library was threatened with a $25 fine.[34] In July, the city council unanimously approved a temporary moratorium to permit Little Free Libraries on private property.[35]

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 the one that was shut down had “bothered someone.”[36] The following month, the city council temporarily legalized book exchange boxes until the zoning ordinances could be amended to permanently allow them.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Little Free Library Ltd." Exempt Organizations Select Check. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  2. ^ "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Little Free Library Ltd. Guidestar. December 31, 2015.
  3. ^ "Little Free Library". Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  4. ^ "People of Little Free Library". Little Free Library. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Little Free Library Ltd. Guidestar. December 31, 2016.
  6. ^ Fuentes, Nicole (August 2, 2018). "Little Free Library". Long Island Advance.
  7. ^ Shachar, Noah (August 16, 2018). "Little Free Libraries Thrive in Santa Barbara". Santa Barbara Independent.
  8. ^ "About Little Free Library". Little Free Library. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  9. ^ Ross, Jenna (October 18, 2018). "After terminal cancer diagnosis, Little Free Library founder feels like 'most successful person I know'". Star Tribune. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d Kelly, Mary Louise (October 19, 2018). "Little Free Library Creator Todd Bol Dies". All Things Considered. National Public Radio.
  11. ^ a b Ross, Jenna (October 18, 2018). "Todd Bol, creator of the Little Free Library, dies at 62". Star Tribune.
  12. ^ "Little Free Library: What People Are Saying". Little Free Library. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  13. ^ "Little Free Library, Ltd." Corporate Records. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  14. ^ "Little Free Library Ltd". Guidestar. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  15. ^ "History of Little Free Library". Little Free Library. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  16. ^ a b LaVecchia, Olivia (August 14, 2012). "Little Free Library breaks Carnegie's record with 2,510+ libraries (and growing)". City Pages (Minneapolis, Minnesota).
  17. ^ Aldrich, Margaret. "Big Little Milestone: There Are Now 50,000 Little Free Libraries Worldwide". Book Riot. November 7, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  18. ^ Aldrich, Margaret (August 30, 2018). "Little Free Library Celebrates Milestone 75,000th Library". Little Free Library.
  19. ^ "Little Free Library Milestones". Little Free Library. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  20. ^ Aldrich, Margaret. The Little Free Library Book. Coffee House Press. ISBN 978-1566894074. April 14, 2015.
  21. ^ "About the Impact Fund". Little Free Library.
  22. ^ "Action Book Club". Little Free Library.
  23. ^ "Registration Process". Little Free Library.
  24. ^ Karnowski, Steve. "Wis. Man's Little Free Library Copied Worldwide". Associated Press. Yahoo! News. December 25, 2012.
  25. ^ Ellis, Rahema May 1, 2012). "Using Books to Build Community". The Daily Nightly. MSNBC. Archived from the origial on May 1, 2012.
  26. ^ a b Durst, Kristen (7 March 2012). "'Little Free Libraries' Hope For Lending Revolution". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  27. ^ Turner, Brodie. "Little Free Library: How a Loving Tribute Became a Worldwide Sensation". Good News Shared. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
  28. ^ Ford, Dick. "The Mize Tardis". Mize City Library (Mize, Mississippi). Instagram. January 4, 2016.
  29. ^ "'May Peace Prevail on Earth' Is Message of New Peace Pole Library". Little Free Library. 2016-09-12. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  30. ^ Stingl, Jim (10 November 2012). "Village slaps endnote on Little Libraries". Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Madison, Wisc. Archived from the original on 2013-03-08. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  31. ^ "News & Notes: Aug. 7". Whitefish Bay Now. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  32. ^ Waxman, Olivia B. (20 June 2014). "City Forces 9-Year-Old Boy to Move 'Little Free Library' From Front Yard". Time.
  33. ^ "Spencer's Little Free Library". Facebook. 19 June 2014.
  34. ^ McCallister, Laura; Fowler, Brix (18 June 2014). "City to fine owners of Little Free Libraries". KFVS-TV.
  35. ^ 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).
  36. ^ Burris, Alexandria (30 January 2015). "Other Little Free Libraries could be ordered to cease". Shreveport Times.
  37. ^ Burris, Alexandria (10 February 2015). "Little Free Libraries made legal — for now". Shreveport Times.

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