So You Want To Steward a Little Free Library

Last year, around the first week of December, my spouse gifted me with a Little Free Library. He’d built it himself and I painted it Barney dinosaur purple on the outside and lavender on the inside, with the words “Little Free Library” and “Take a Book, Leave a Book” written in lavender on the outside panels. I loved it. (I still love it.)

Now that I’ve had the library for a year, and people are acclimating to its presence on my block, even bringing their own books to unhaul into it (but mostly people borrowing/taking for their own use), this is what I’ve learned.

  1. Keep it 3/4 full. That way people don’t feel weird taking the “first” book out of it and there’s room for folks to put their own contributions into the library.
  2. Don’t bother with the library stamp. I bought one off the website for $20 but when there are a ton of books coming in and going out, you won’t want to go out and stamp each book. If you do want to stamp, for whatever reason, buy a self-inking stamp with your own logo on it — that would be my advice. Because you’re not going to want to bring an inkpad out there to stamp.
  3. This might be controversial, but I didn’t put my library on the LFL official map. I’d heard too many stories of people whose libraries were cleaned out, and it was likely because someone just wandered over from the map without a personal connection to the library. I want my library to be a hidden gem that only my neighbors know about.

Now that it’s the holidays, I decided to do something fun with my library. I wrapped like-new or gently-used books and wrote out “blind date with a book” descriptions on post-it notes to affix onto the wrapping paper. I noted the age, genre, and three bullet points about the book to intrigue the reader, and then I shared that I did this on my neighborhood Buy Nothing group. The response has been very positive!

People ask where I get all the books for my library. Mine is not on a busy street, but a quiet residential area, so the foot traffic isn’t as robust as some. Right now I get a mix of donations from neighbors, hauls from Buy Nothing groups, bulk purchases from Facebook Marketplace (usually books I’ve read before and have loved, and want to pass along but don’t want to lose my own copy), and a ton from my own destashing. I buy around 25-35 books a year (conservative estimate) and my bookshelves are straining. So in order to keep my house from devolving into chaos, I read as much as I can, keep the books that I love or want to lend out to friends, and the rest go into the garage in a holding pattern for the LFL.

(My spouse says that I have too many books. That I don’t need to get more. But I disagree. I always want more books!)

I will say that I’m very picky about what goes in my LFL. If it’s 40 years old and falling apart and moldy, it leaves. Pamphlets (religious or otherwise) get tossed. If it’s a title that no one will read, like a textbook that’s generations old, I remove it. I refresh when the supplies seem to get low, or when I look at the titles and the list of them bores me. I want my library to excite me!

I hope this helps future stewards!