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How I Made My Little Free Neighborhood Library

I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.

My little free neighborhood library!

My little free neighborhood library!

Little Free Libraries Are a Hit!

Ever since I started to see little free libraries popping up in my neighborhood, I’ve wanted one for my yard. Not only is it a great way to share books with others, but it’s a great way to unload excess books that I’d like to get rid of.

My little free library has been a big hit in my neighborhood, and the neighbors have had a lot of questions about how to install one of their own. Here’s how I did it.

Here's a look at the unpainted library.

Here's a look at the unpainted library.

Purchasing My Little Free Library Materials

Once I decided to buy a little free library, I went online to see what the process entails. There, I discovered the Little Free Library website. This is a non-profit organization that helps both individuals and groups purchase, install, and market their libraries all over the world.

The Little Free Library Organization has libraries for sale and also provides plaques with individual charter numbers for each library to make them easy to locate. Most libraries come pre-assembled, but The Little Free Library site does have a library available to purchase that you can build yourself. I considered this option but was worried about the quality of the craftsmanship. So, I decided not to take my chances.

I shopped around for units before deciding to buy mine from Etsy. It was cheaper, my desired size, and already assembled by a professional. Their Etsy store has since disappeared, so I can't share the link, but they sold affordable, unpainted libraries—so I knew I was getting a sturdy library with a blank slate that I could paint any color and with any design I wanted. I'm sure you can find something similar online today. My library was less than $200 with shipping, but they can run anywhere from $150 to well over $1,000 depending on size, shape, and paint job.

Soon, my little free library arrived in the mail. I got to work gathering the materials I would need to install it.

The Etsy library came with all of the hardware and pre-drilled holes that I needed to install it, but it did not come with a post. So, I had to pick one up at the hardware store.

I was originally considering staining the wood a bright color to make it stand it out. Then, I found a small can of teal-colored outdoor furniture paint in the clearance section at the hardware store and decided to paint it instead. Armed with some paint brushes and drop cloths, by the time the weather broke, I was ready to paint.

Painting My Library!

Painting My Library!


Painting took several coats over several days. In my spare room with the windows and doors open for ventilation, I applied three to four layers to the library.

The problem with the library being already assembled was that it was hard to paint around the hinges, knob, and glass without missing a spot or hitting a spot I didn't want to. So, some extra small brushes were needed, along with some strange painting angles, to make sure that I hit every visible area. I decided to paint my post the same color as my library, so that took some extra time since the post needed to be rotated after a few coats on each side.

Afterward, I sprayed it with some outdoor wood protector. But it was still wet after two days, and I did have to touch up my paint after I installed my library, which defeated the purpose of spraying. So, I would recommend installing your library before applying any kind of polyurethane or wood protector.

Little Free Library Installation Instructions

Little Free Library Installation Instructions

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Installing My Library

After about a week of painting, my library was ready to install. My library came with installation instructions, and the Little Free Library website also has instructions for installation. So, using both sets of instructions and the help of my parents, we dug a hole in the desired spot in my yard.

I live on a busy road with no sidewalk, so I decided not to install my library in my front yard. I do live on a corner lot, however, so I decided to install it on my less busy side street where cars could stop safely. I also set it back in my yard a few feet so that pedestrians could look through the library without standing in the road.

The instructions said to dig a hole two feet deep. We didn't dig down far enough, and I had to go back and re-dig later so that the library didn't tip and so that shorter people could reach both shelves.

Then we cut the 8-foot post into a 5-foot post using an electric saw that my neighbor had let me borrow for another project. The post was inserted into the hole in the ground, and the library was then fastened to the post on the base that was included with my library.

We then used a level to make sure that it was straight and a hand tamper to secure the dirt around the library. Finally, I stocked it with old books: mostly middle grade and young adult novels, as well as my self-published novels.

A few days later, my plaque arrived in the mail, which I secured to the front of the library door with a drill and two screws. By then, it was time to plant flowers, and I spread some excess mulch around the post to cover the loose dirt.

Soon, the Patrons Arrived

Like I said, my library has been a big hit around the neighborhood. Readers come both by car and foot to look through the library, and they have already begun to take and leave books.

They have a lot of questions regarding the rules. Basically though, aside from common sense anti-vandalism, there are no rules. Some say they have been inspired to install one in their yards in order to get rid of their unwanted books. The project has surpassed my expectations already and has added a positive element to both my yard and to the neighborhood itself.

Do you have a little free library, or do you visit one regularly? If not, check the Little Free Library website for a map of all of the registered libraries in your area. Even if a library isn't registered, you may still be able to find some hidden ones by accident, just by exploring your nearby streets.


Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on June 02, 2017:

What a great idea.

Amelia Griggs from U.S. on May 05, 2017:

This is adorable and helpful to local readers! Hats off to you for doing this and sharing books.

I shared this on my Facebook page. :-)

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 03, 2017:

What a great idea! I will think about this for my own yard. Thanks for the very helpful information.

Zaton-Taran from California on May 02, 2017:

I absolutely LOVE this idea. Reminds me of a time long gone by - insofar as most of the States is concerned...

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