A Beginner’s Guide To Little Free Libraries

So you want to run a Little Free Library! Great, excellent, amazing! I’m an LFL steward myself, and my bookworm friends often ask what it takes to get a Little Free Library installed at or near their home. 

I’d love to tell you it takes brains, moxie, and spunk. But in reality, all you need is some ingenuity, a bit of patience, and books. And if you’re not feeling particularly creative, you can buy yourself out of the ingenuity bit with cold, hard cash. 

Step 1: Buy Or Build A Little Free Library

If you’ve got a Ron Swanson in your family, rally the mustachioed woodworker and enlist his or her help in constructing a Little Free Library worthy of the bookish gods. The official Little Free Library website has helpful tips, tricks, and guides to help you along the way. If you opt for this approach, you can buy a post separately to save yourself the extra work of building one from scratch.

If you’d rather steer clear of the power tools and sawdust, you can buy pre-made kits and have them shipped to you. To salvage a bit of our creative energy, the Chateau Rush complex sprung for an unfinished model, which my wife then custom painted. 

No matter the route you choose, you’ll end up with a Little Free Library ready to install.

Step 2: Install It

Here’s where things can get murky. Depending on where you live and how you want to display your Little Free Library, you may have to jump through a few hoops. 

My crew chose to mount our LFL with a wooden post (which we purchased with our actual Library). In Chicago, that means submitting a dig ticket and getting approval from the city to actually make a hole deep enough to support the entire structure. 

Check your local dig restrictions and be sure you’re cleared for action before you take a shovel to the ground. If you’re mounting your LFL somewhere, then you don’t have much to worry about. 

Dig your hole, stick the post into the ground, fasten the LFL to the post, and fill in the hole. Bada-bing, bada-boom, you’re set. For our Little Free Library, we added a screw in the back for extra support. As any midwestern dad would say about a sturdy DIY project while shaking it for a rudimentary structural integrity check, “that ain’t going anywhere.”

Step 2a: Register Your Little Free Library

All set? Register your Little Free Library on the official website so it appears on the map!

Step 3: Become A Steward

Can you handle the responsibility? I sure hope so, because news flash: your community is gonna put some duds in your LFL. 

As a Little Free Library steward your job is to provide LFL-goers with cream-of-the-crop reads. Why? Because they’ll treat your library like a personal trash can. Just when you think your LFL selection can’t get any weirder, someone drops off a book of handwritten hymns, bound together by tenuous improvised knots. Or how about a half-complete sudoku book? Turns out those puzzles aren’t as fun when numbers 1 through 5 are already accounted for. 

On some level, I joke—though those examples are all too real. 

For my Little Free Library, I take occasional steps to provide quality bookish content to the community. 

Any used bookstore run now inherently becomes a Little Free Library run. If I find cheap paperbacks of my favorite books, I might buy two or three to put in the library.

Anything I read that isn’t a must-keep or favorites-shelf addition? LFL.

Doing a massive unhaul? LFL. 

Thankfully, this has kept our Little Free Library active and full of solid options. The downright chaotic reads will come, but take them in stride and find a system that works for you. You’re in charge, now, and you can fuel your Little Free Library with the reads the people want. 

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