A DIY Weekend Project for Book Lovers

A Little Free Library branchA Little Free Library allows people to take a book and leave a book. Image: Little Free Library

This DIY project combines books, carpentry, and community building.

This weekend, you can share your favorite books, indulge your passion for DIY projects, and bring your neighborhood closer together by building a library. Not the multimillion-dollar kind erected by local government, but a 24x24x30-inch two-shelf Little Free Library fronted by plexiglass where passersby can take a book and leave a book.

The brainchild of two Wisconsin men who hope to surpass the 2,509 libraries built by Andrew Carnegie, Little Free Libraries are popping up in suburban New Orleans; Omaha, Neb.; Portland, Ore.; and many other U.S. cities.

Todd Bol and Rick Brooks of Hudson, Wis., built the first Little Free Library in 2009 in Madison, Wis., as a memorial to Bol’s mother, who’d been a teacher. Today, they track the expansion of their idea through a website that shows Little Free Library locations, pictures, and stories, and offers plans to help you build your own.

The typical Little Free Library holds about two dozen books or audiobooks and goes up in a location with lots of foot traffic. There are libraries shaped like red British phone booths and barns, and people have made them from all sorts of recycled materials like cranberry boxes and old license plates.

If you want to become an official part of the movement, make a $25 donation to the Little Free Library group to get an official marker and a registration number. You’ll also get to add your location to a Google Map on the Little Free Library website so visitors can find you.

If your home is far-removed from foot traffic, but the project appeals to you, your Little Free Library doesn’t have to be in your front yard. The DIY libraries have cropped up in public parks and in front of businesses.  If you live in a condo, you can put one in the lobby of your building, or the community gym, or just designate a couple of shelves for a book exchange.

One caveat: If you live in a home owners association, be sure to check with them for permission before you put a library in your front yard.

If you put up a free library in your yard, would your neighbors applaud or complain it’s a nuisance?