Now and then an idea comes along that has the potential to change the world. Not because it is large and grandiose, but through simplicity and elegance, and in the case of the 'Little Free Library' initiative, created for all the right reasons.
In case you haven't seen one, a Little Free Library is something akin to a mailbox. It sits on roadsides, outside stores or in a park, and is filled with random books. When walking past, you may spot a book that you would like to read, so you head home and grab a book you've already finished or didn't love, and swap it with a book you want.
Take a book, return a book.
Because the library is tiny, forget about any form of organisation, and because it is a community initiative, don't worry about what you think is "good," or "bad." In a Little Free Library, everyone's opinion is equal, and you can swap a science fiction novel with 50 Shades of Grey, or a children's book with a John Grisham novel; it only matters that you replace what you take.
So how can you get a Little Free Library going in your local area? The first port of call is www.littlefreelibrary.org where you will be introduced to the concept in more detail, and, far more importantly, see some Little Free Libraries from around the world, some so well-designed and taking care of that you will want to move into them. On the site, you will also find step-by-step advice on how to begin on a little library in your community. You will find building tips, which doesn't seem important until you consider your construction will be housing books, and has to be waterproof. But this isn't some kind of quirky design phenomenon, it's all about getting people reading, so you will also find hints on how to start a library on a shoestring, including what to do if, "I just want it to be waterproof and hold books."
Once you've got your library up and running, you will be able to list it on the global database, enabling people in your area, or visitors to your neighbourhood to find the library, and exchange a book.
Next, walk away.
You will be amazed how quickly word spreads, and how many wonderful people donate books for no other reason than to imagine the look on people's faces, and sometimes to get rid of a terrible book, which again, isn't a little library term. If you really want to do something special, put the library near a seat, or leave some chairs nearby so that children can sit down, read some books and then put them back…or not.
Now, it's time to feast your eyes on some pictures from the Little Free Library website, and remember, you don't need to be a master builder or have a complicated plan to get one started, just grab a plastic box and put some books on it. If it lasts for a week, and one person exchanges a book and finds something they love, then it will be well worth it.
For library staff
Free little libraries aren’t designed to ‘take the place’ of local libraries – they are there to supplement them and encourage local literacy through access. They are a great place to put some weeded material. Brochures can be put in them to refer locals to the local library if they have any questions, would like additional resources, or would like suggestions on what to read. A great marketing opportunity!