All About Little Free Libraries


Ethan Jones

Have you ever heard of a little free library? Or seen a little box somewhere around the city with books inside? If you have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain the worldwide organization working to empower and encourage readers from hundreds of countries.

Little Free Library is a small organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota that was started in 2009, originally as a memorial for Todd Bol to honor his mother, a caring teacher who loved to read. Friends and neighbors of Bol loved it, and soon it became a way to spread good. Bol was inspired by community gift-sharing networks in coffee shops and public areas. Bol and a colleague Rick Brooks chose to expand this simple idea: a little home, almost resembling a mailbox, would be put somewhere in a neighborhood or a school and be filled with books. Anyone who passed by it was able to take a book, completely free of charge. People could also donate books by simply putting them inside. It was a great way to get people reading across the globe, and a great way to get rid of unwanted books without throwing them away. The goal for Bol and Brooks was to surpass 2,508 little public libraries (the previous goal for philanthropist Andrew Carnige) by 2013. They ended up exceeding that goal in 2012, over a year before the target date.

According to their website, their mission is to “be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries.” Another aspect of Little Free Libraries is that they try to get a range of voices from different authors. Started in 2020, Read in Color was developed to “[distribute] books that provide perspectives on racism and social justice; celebrate BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized voices; and incorporate experiences from all identities for all readers.”

Little Free Libraries have truly changed the world, inspiring over 150,000 everyday people to build a Little Free Library for their community, and spreading globally to over 110 countries. If you are curious about where your nearest library could be, the Little Free Library has a world map that is easy to use and very helpful. I truly recommend visiting your local Little Free Library and picking up or dropping off a free book.