Book Talk: Building My Little Free Library

The Adventure of Building My Little Free Library

Posted January 18, 2021 by Amber in Bookish Things / 8 Comments

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Last August, I spent the month designing and building a Little Free Library.  It was such a fun experience and something I’ve been wanting to share ever since.  While we’re buried in snow and general cold here in New England, it seemed like a perfect time to revisit the warm days of summer and hours spent painting!

First – an introduction.  For those unfamiliar with the Little Free Library project, it is a non-profit organization whose goal is to bring literacy to everyone, all over the world.  Libraries are curated and maintained by “librarians”, individuals responsible to keeping the boxes clean and well-stocked.  Many individuals don’t have access to books, and Little Free Libraries help spread literacy.  Additionally, it give individuals the opportunity to supplement libraries in providing books to communities that may not already have them.  For example, I live in a rural town, and our library is small.  The librarians need to prioritize books they know will meet supply and demand… which unfortunately means that a lot of YA books are not in local circulation.  I can provide those to the community… and if I stock a book that doesn’t get picked up after a few rotations, I can donate it to the library or elsewhere.

Little Free Library Door Painting

When I built my library, I had a few goals in mind:

  1. To provide an escape – books have always comforted me with their ability to transport me to different worlds.  If there was ever a year when we needed an escape, it was 2020.  For this reason, I curate a library that only stocks fiction.
  2. I wanted to stock books that were difficult to find locally.  YA books often need to be requested from Boston’s libraries, if they’re available at all… especially diverse ones.  I try to stock those in my Little Free Library to bring them into the community.
  3. To stock diverse books.  Especially diverse children’s and middle grade books.  Publishing doesn’t market these books enough, and I wanted to both support the authors as well as help these books infiltrate my neighborhood.

We spent weeks painting.  In part because we needed good weather at certain stages, but also because the intricacy of what we were doing took hours.  I decided to theme my Little Free Library on the things I like the best… fantasy worlds and travel.  And thus, the Adventures Await Little Free Library was born.

Little Free Library Being Painted Blue

I knew I wanted to include a signpost on my library, pointing to the lands of some of my favorite books.  I also wanted to include a colorful theme, so I took the bright rainbow and picked some classics and painted the way.  Because of the quality of the wood on the arrows, I’m not sure how long these will last on the library post before breaking or rotting, but painting these signs reminded me how much I enjoy painting for fun.  Also little projects like this – it’s so satisfying to see the end result.

Once the signpost was finished, I knew I needed to come up with a plan for the box itself.  After some deliberation, I settled on a globe format.

Little Free Library Sign The Shire

Because its fantasy and adventure theme, and because I love nautical stories, pirate stories, and journeys in books… this seemed like a perfect design. Also, there was a very pretty bright blue waterproof spray paint at Target, and it was the perfect shade for an ocean, so that worked out nicely.

I also decided I didn’t want to duplicate any fandoms, so each of the eight featured lands are from different books.  Altogether, there are fourteen fandoms featured on the Adventures Await Little Free Library:

I tried to use a lot of classic fandoms that everyone would recognize, and slide in a few of my personal favorites as well.  Altogether, I’m really happy with the result.

Little Free Library Panel Painting

We launched the Adventures Await Little Free Library in the first weekend of September in 2020.  Even though we missed most of the neighborhood walkers and the families driving up and down our road to the popular ice cream stand at the end… I’m still glad we put it up last year.

In the last several months, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of my neighbors via a shared notebook left in the library.  I’ve had dozens of books donated… to the point where I need to go through the donations and find different homes for some because I’ve got bags and boxes in my dining room!  I’ve been so surprised by the way folks have checked in for something to read, stories and favorites to share. It’s been such a fun project, and I’m looking forward to continuing to curate it for years to come!

If you’ve never seen a Little Free Library, I recommend checking out the map on their website to see if there are any near you.  Boxes exists worldwide, from New Zealand to Nigeria to Canada and beyond.  And, if there’s not one near you and you have the ability to put one near your home or can partner with a local non-profit to create one… I recommend it!  It’s been a great experience.

Little Free Library Finished

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Have you ever visited a Little Free Library?  Is this the sort of project you would enjoy curating yourself?  I’ve wanted to have a LFL for years!  Do you have any bookish goals?  Let me know in the comments!

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8 responses to “The Adventure of Building My Little Free Library

  1. Ahh, this is so cool!!! I love the painting you did!

    I keep playing with the idea of getting a Little Free Library, but the cost of buying a premade one (because I have no skill to build my own) is something of a deterrent. And I need to send a map of where I would put it on my property and ask the town to approve it or something. And then I just scrapped the whole idea during Covid because I wasn’t sure people would want to touch communal books. Maybe I’ll revisit it in a few months. In the meantime, I’ll just admire yours!

    • Amber

      We were super lucky that our town doesn’t care what you put on your property as long as it’s not dangerous, so we didn’t have to get permission. The cost was a deterrent for us as well – honestly, it ended up coming out of our 2020 travel budget since everything got cancelled, but even then, it was a HUGE discussion for us. I’m really happy to say it’s paying off for us in how much it’s being used – I’ve been slacking a bit on checking it during the winter, but when I peeked in on Sunday, I didn’t recognize a single book! Someone donated a bunch of children’s books which is lovely because almost every time I order some, they don’t fit in the library. XD I’d recommend keeping an eye out for sales if you ever ARE interested (ours was free shipping… which made a BIG difference). Also if you’re ever feeling handy there are a bunch of YouTube videos out there where people walk you through stuff… which is how we learned to install ours, lol.

  2. Monica Laurette

    I love this so much! I live in the crowded city so I don’t know how well I could implement one of these in my neighborhood but I will definitely keep it in the back of my mind for the future for when I move! (or my neighborhood becomes a little less violent.)

    • Amber

      Oh no, sounds like not a great location at all in your neighborhood. Stay safe! If you ever wanted to do one, I learned that a lot of libraries host them, so I’d recommend connecting with your local library and it could always be a public works project and that makes it a little easier to put it in a public place. 😀 Elementary schools and churches, too. 🙂

  3. Your library is so pretty. 🙂

    I miss these, honestly. There’s one down the street from my work, but the nice family running it took the books out during the height of COVID. I just hope that the world can go back to normal so the kids can go there again!

    • Amber

      Thanks Elka! 🙂 A lot of people shut down the libraries during COVID. And I totally understand why – it’s difficult to monitor the library, especially in highly trafficked areas, and still feel safe. I have a bottle of hand sanitizer in mine and hope that people use it, plus I sanitize the books when I put them out, and once a week otherwise. It’s a lot of work, but worth it to see people using it. However, I’m in a super rural area, so there’s not TOO much traffic. I think if it was more urban I would have put up a “See ya after the pandemic!” sign, too. I hope yours comes back this summer!

    • Amber

      Thank you so much! I’m really happy with how the direction signs came out. A couple friends asked me if I’d consider selling them one Etsy, but believe me when I say they look so much nicer from a distance than they do up close. Lol. That one actually fell off the library just yesterday (*sigh* winter) so we’re going to try to figure out a better system for keeping the signs on the post! 😀