5 Things I’ve Learned from my Little Free Library

My Little Free Library

just turned one,

and what a year

it has been!

I’ve settled in as the library steward, and this is what I’ve learned, so far, about how a Little Free Library works:

1. If you build it, they will come.

Readers found and began using the library right away. And, wow, do they use it! Last summer, I stocked the library with my own books and books that I found in thrift shops. For a while, those books made up the library’s “catalogue.” After readers became comfortable using the library, they began donating their own books. Today, much of the Little Free Library’s catalogue comes from its patrons.

2. Kids like it.

When I set up my Little Free Library, last summer, I put books for grownups on the top shelf and kid’s books on the bottom. The kid’s books quickly disappeared. I discovered that unless parents intervene, kids forget to return what they borrow. I made the decision not to restock the kid’s bookshelf, and, soon, kids, and parents, too, wondered why there were no children’s books in the Little Free Library. Some of the “borrowed” books came back, and parents began donating books for kids.

3. Bad weather doesn’t keep readers away.

I live in Wisconsin, and winters here are snowy and cold. But that didn’t stop die-hard readers. They came, bundled in their parkas, mittens, and snow boots. Some even came in cars! So, I made sure that the library was stocked with books for cozy, fireside reading.

4. Dogs like it, too!

The library is popular with dog walkers, so I’ve added a plastic jar with dog treats and a small sign on the door: Doggie Treats Inside. Dogs are no dummies! After that first treat, they drag their people down the block to the Little Free Library. The dog treats have proven to be a great marketing tool. It forces those who might not stop otherwise to open the door and see what’s inside.

5. It’s not MY Little Free Library.

The library has taken on a life of its own. Readers aren’t shy anymore about opening the door to see what’s inside. They bring their friends. One lady is our self-appointed “tidier.” She shows up every week to tidy up the books, separating the hardcovers from the paperbacks and arranging them by size!

I’ve learned to stay in the background. I think that is what a good steward does. I check on the library often and stock it with bookmarks and doggie treats. But otherwise, I’m like the librarian sitting at her desk ready to help whenever I’m needed. The less I intervene, the more MY Little Free Library becomes EVERYONE’S Little Free Library

And that is exactly what it’s supposed be.

Click on the picture to see how others are using their Little Free Libraries.


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Filed under Little Free Library

10 responses to “5 Things I’ve Learned from my Little Free Library

  1. I’m so glad that I did it, bamauthor! Well worth it. Thanks for the comment.


  2. What an inspiring post! I love little free libraries and I’ve always thought about starting one someday when I have the time. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I love the tip about the dog treats.


  3. I love it! And I’m so glad that you shared with us how the last year has gone! I’d love to have one of these, but my son asks, “Why do you want people you don’t know stopping in our yard……?” Sigh. I don’t know. I just LIKE the idea!


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  5. Allison

    I put a jar of dog treats out yesterday after seeing your post in the newsletter. Woke up today and found someone stole the entire jar! Any tips on how to do this without having it stolen every time it gets restocked?


    • Allison, that’s too bad! I haven’t had any problems with people stealing treats or taking too many. I wish that I had some suggestions for you. Maybe one of the other stewards might have some ideas.


  6. Carol

    Do you put a journal or a notebook of some kind in your library? If so, what does it say? How do you encourage patrons to write something?


    • Hi, Carol. I have envelopes and note cards in the library so patrons can leave me private messages. Most often they are thank-you notes. I haven’t thought to put a journal in there. That’s an interesting idea.


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