How to Start a Little Free Library in Your Area

Last Updated on July 19, 2019 by Diane Hoffmaster

Libraries are a wonderful way to save money on your reading habit.  Millions of books are available to read for absolutely no cost out of pocket.  In addition, they can be read over and over again my many people.  Of course, libraries are not always close by and occasionally they are closed when you most want to visit one.  Learn how to start a little free library in your town so you will always have a great source of free books!

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Tips for Outdoor lending library photos and text sayingStarting Little Free Libraries

What is a Little Free Library?

A new trend has been popping up lately across the country called The Little Free Library.  Essentially, The Little Free Library is a decorative box on a post with a door and small roof.  Inside there are an assortment of books, donated by local individuals.  Rules vary by location but basically it is a ‘take one and leave one’ system of book sharing among friends and neighbors.  It’s a great way to read more books for less money. Want to learn how to start a Little Free Library in your town?  There are a few things to consider before you start. 

Little Free Library Supplies and Accessories

  • Little Free Libraries & Tiny Sheds: 12 Miniature Structures You Can Build: Your complete source for building tiny sharing structures, including plans for 12 different structures, step-by-step photography and instructions, inspirational examples, and maintenance.
  • Unfinished little free library. It is completely handmade. All parts are polished, and have a smooth surface. Each little library is unique in texture as it is made of natural wood.
  • Happiness is a Little Free Library T-Shirt: Whether you love playing librarian or enjoy sharing your favorite books, you’ll agree with the message on this graphic t-shirt.

Little Free Library on wall filled with books

The History of Little Free Library

The Little Free Library started in one person’s yard.  In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother.  She was a teacher who loved to read. Then, he filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.  And from there, the Little Free Library idea grew by leaps and bounds to the world wide phenomenon that it is today.  Before you build a Little Free Library, do your research to ensure success.  

How to Start a Little Free Library In Your Community

How to Start a Little Free Library:  The Basic Steps

So, building a Little Free Library is a great thing to do for your neighborhood.  However, how do you get started?  Basically, there are about 5 steps to follow to ensure that your library is successful:

  1. Identify a location and steward. Basically, where will it be and who will take care of it. 
  2. Get a library or build one. 
  3. Register your library to support the cause.
  4. Build support. Get your community excited about it. 
  5. Add it to the world map on the Little Free Library world map

How to Get Approval For A Little Free Library

Before you start building, make sure you have chosen a good location and get approval for the installation of your Little Free Library.  If you live in a neighborhood with a Home Owners Association or you plan on putting it on public property, make sure you get the okay from the people in charge, first!

Little Free Library filled with books outside 

How To Create a Lending Library Box

The first step is to actually create the wooden library box.  You will want something approximately 20 inches wide, 15 inches deep and 18 inches high but the actual dimensions are fairly flexible.  Set it on a strong post that is cemented into the ground. The box itself should have one or two shelves inside to make it neat.  You can get actual designs on the Little Free Library website at  You can also purchase premade lending libraries online. Make sure that you waterproof it before adding books inside!

adult reading a book outside

What Books To Stock In a Lending Library

You need to fill your library up before people will visit.  Think of your demographics and add a wide variety of books for adults and children.  Include magazines as well.  You will have to keep the size of the books down.  Large, coffee table sized books are not a great choice. 

Tips for Stocking your Library with Books 

  • Start with your own bookcase.  Which books do you not want any more?
  • Hit up garage sales.  You can often find cheap books there. 
  • Have a ‘grand opening party’ for your Lending Library and ask everyone to bring books to share. 
  • Ask your library if they have used book sales.
  • Check out this post on how to keep your library well stocked

Where to Publicize Your Little Free Library

You will need to get the word out about your Little Free Library.  Put up a sign on the box so people understand what it is.  Tell your friends, put a notice in your local newspaper or Neighborhood Association publication.  Eventually, word will spread about your project!

wood and tools for carpentry

How much does it cost to build a Little Free Library?

How much does it cost to start a Little Free Library? Well, that really depends on whether you are building your own or buying one online. If you are building your own library, your main cost is the materials. That could range from $5 to $150, depending on how fancy you get or if you can find materials second hand. 

In addition to building costs, you do have to pay a fee to basically use the name ‘Little Free Library’ and add it to the world map. You must register your library and pay a $40 fee, for which you’ll receive an official charter sign with a unique number to attach to your structure, and a listing on the LFL world map.

Other ways to promote literacy within your community

Learning how to build a little free library is a great way to get your community excited about reading.  If your goal is to promote literacy but you don’t want to tackle building a Little Free Library, you have other options.  

  • Volunteer as a tutor. 
  • Stare a book club at your local book store. 
  • Start a community reading program
  • Work with preschool children as a story time helper.
  • Get families involved in local reading efforts. This would be a great project for your Girl Scout troupe.
  • Create a Twitter hashtag for sharing books or look into a neighborhood book drive. 

Promoting literacy, whether it is with a Little Free Library or some other creative project, is a great mission for social good.  Education is never a bad thing and reading is a vital part of raising a well rounded child

Do you have a Little Free Library in your area?

Diane Signature


  1. I think this is amazing! The man who started must be proud. One thing I think is really dumb is paying a fee for a lable and number. Why? Why does it matter to be put on a map. The people are going and doing the hard work of promoting their box and most likely making or creating their box. Why should they pay for a label and give credit to something. If they build their own box, promote it then the label shouldn't matter. On top of that it was meant to be a kind thing why make a business out it. Some people looking to make extra bucks wherever they can.
    • Diane Hoffmaster says
      Im not really sure why they charge for that, unless it is to help pay to run the website that helps you locate them online. But, I think a lot of people start them without registering them, as well.

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