Little Free Libraries

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Little Free Libraries are cabinet-sized outdoor structures built for the purpose of holding free books for readers to exchange. LittleFreeLibrary.org is home to this movement that encourages literacy for all ages by increasing the availability of books.

The first Little Free Libraries were built in Wichita in 2012 and many more have gone up since then.

A Little Free Library in Wichita, Kansas

How can I visit Little Free Libraries?

We have several great ways to find them:

  1. http://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap - The official, most up-to-date listing is at the map of all Little Free Libraries. The best way to search is to filter by state - just type in "Kansas" and leave the city blank to get the whole metro area.
  2. https://lfl.openwichita.com/ Unofficial list that shows libraries with respect to where you're at. This was created by a local Wichitan as a fun and quick way to find libraries if you're driving around an unfamiliar area.
  3. http://facebook.com/WichitaLittleFreeLibrary - Our local facebook page that regularly features local libraries with what's happening and who needs books.
  4. https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9LcsPbanM1TRUZ6cEQ5ZWV6Mlk Printable map of all LFLs in Wichita, sorted geographically for a city-wide tour to visit them all.

There's already a Little Free Library in my neighborhood, can I still build one?

Yes! The world can't have too many Little Free Libraries. Some neighborhoods with lots of libraries even designate special purpose libraries - they'll have one for kids books, one for science fiction, etc. Or if you don't want to do that, check around and see if a friend in an area without a library wants to host one, if you build it there will surely be a place.

Does Wichita have rules about building Little Free Libraries?

We have not run into any issues with the city regarding Little Free Libraries, the city hasn't taken any down and neighbors have not complained. There are no "official" policies around them either, but this is probably okay. To stay off the city's radar we recommend the following:

Keep the library small

Bird house to small dog house size is ok. The size of a double kitchen cabinet is the upper limit. Larger structures will require zoning permits and fees. Don't put up a whole phone booth! Actually... don't even put up a little phone booth, as world already has too many Tardis Little Free Libraries.

Keep it aesthetically pleasing

Match the architecture of the home or business so it looks like it belongs. Keep the neighbors happy as complaints have been the primary cause for issues in other cities.

Install the LFL outside of the city's easement!

The easement typically goes from the street to the yard edge of the sidewalk. Approval from the city and an associated fee may allow for installation inside the easement. Same goes for parks, trails, medians - any bit of land that is not yours.

When we asked questions we were helped out by:

Do I have to police and monitor what gets left in my library?

As stewards, we consider it our job to walk out every so often and straighten things out. We'll also take books inside when the library is too crowded and rotate them in later. We don't usually remove books. The library is a reflection of our neighborhood, not us.

That said, we have found some items left in the library that don't encourage literacy. Here's a short rundown of what we do with these extra items:

  • Used textbooks - Use a donation/resale service to get these off your hands if no one is interested in reading them. Chegg is a favorite.
  • Coffee table books - These work great in donut houses and coffee shops where people want to browse and flip through looking at photos.
  • Religious warnings about the imminent end of the world - This material gets left in libraries all too frequently, so we don't feel bad about pitching it in a recycle bin.
  • Romance novels - It's your library so do what you want, but most of us just sigh and leave these in our libraries. Not all books are national book award material it's true, but they might still be a gateway to get someone back into reading, so when in doubt don't censor.


How do I build a Little Free Library?

See a presentation of this information, along with pictures of LFL's in Wichita, here.

Design

Almost anyone can design a Little Free Library. Check out https://www.pinterest.com/ltlfreelibrary/pins/ for a lot of very unique designs.

Think about how many shelves you want and the spacing they'll need to hold book. Small paperbacks are only about 5x7", but kids books can be up to 12" square.

Plexiglass is the most popular window material. Some builders have found it to be the most expensive part of building a library since it almost always has to be bought, unlike wood that's laying in piles in people's yards. 18x24" of plexiglass runs $10-15 and gets pricier from there, so the bigger your window the more you'll need. You might want to plan around your plexiglass.

Design around the door. Build a door, then a door frame, then walls and a floor and a roof. This is a much easier method than building a bookshelf and then trying to figure out how to attach a door to it.

Reuse and recycle - ask friends who's got plywood or other suitable outdoor materials laying around, you'll be able to find most of what you need for free.

We get some wicked storms in Kansas so be sure to caulk the insides, weatherstrip the door and add a latch so it stays closed.

Tools

  • Saws: circular and/or table saw
  • Carpenter's square
  • Tape measure
  • Caulk gun
  • Exterior deck screws (will hold together better than nails)
  • Clamps
  • Screwdriver and/or drill
  • Sand paper
  • Paint brush and roller

Materials

If you have these materials and can donate them to MakeICT for future libraries, tell us on the forums.

  • Plywood or any other wood that will work well outdoors. Preferably thin plywood, 1/4" thick for sides, 3/8" or 1/2" thick for shelves.
  • Boards for framing. 2x4s, 4x8s.
  • 4x4 post, about 6ft high (2ft will be buried)
  • Hinges and hooks for door (suitable for outdoors)
  • Acrylic for windows
  • Shingles or roofing material
  • Screws
  • Wood glue
  • Caulk
  • Weatherproof stripping
  • Exterior paint, or stain and sealant

Directions and Plans

Installation Instructions

We recommend a 4x4 post buried 2ft into the ground and surrounded by quick-set concrete. The height of the library depends on your goals - if you love kids books, have it closer to 24-28" off the ground. For grownups, 36-42" is a nice height.

Register your library

Getting your library on the world map makes it part of a community. Your books will rotate more often because it will have more visitors, and the money you pay for an official sign (less than $40) helps the non-profit Little Free Library send libraries out to places in dire need.

More info and contacts