Take a Book, Return a Book

It’s a concept that anyone who has ever used a public library understands–take a book, return a book. It’s been drilled into your head ever since you got your first library card, or got the chance to check a book out of your school library. If you take a book, but don’t return it, you get fined.


A small organization based in Madison, WI has different ideas. Little Free Library encourages people all over the world to put small birdhouse-looking structures in their yards. But instead of birdseed, these little houses are home to…wait for it…books. The books are there for passersby to take and read at their leisure and then return whenever they’re done.

No library cards. No due dates. No fines.

Little Free Library has a three-fold mission:

  • Promote literacy and love of reading
  • Build a sense of community
  • Build more than 2,510 libraries (more than Andrew Carnegie)

Pretty impressive, if I say so myself! But how do they keep track of all the libraries built in order to meet that goal of 2,510 libraries around the world?

Stewards (the owners of the individual libraries) are encouraged to register their Little Free Library online, include some pictures, tell their library’s story, and get an official library number. Looking at the pictures and stories available on the website, it’s clear that each very unique library has found its home in a deserving community somewhere in, not just the USA, but in the world. Little Free Libraries can be found in England, Germany, and Ghana.

And even though the library structures can be purchased online (for a pretty decent sum), some people choose to construct their own. Take for example this man in Hudson, WI–he built his Little Free Library just for something to do, not to promote literacy, but as he’s watched his neighbors enjoy his library, he’s come to enjoy it as well.

Everyone wins!

What do you think? Would you like to see a Little Free Library sprout in your own community? Have you seen any of these yourself? Do you think the organization can meet their goal of out-librarying Andrew Carnegie? Tell me in the comments!

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  1. Quinn Kess

    April 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    This is such an awesome concept. I really wish we had one or two of these tin West Hartford. Maybe I’ll start one!

  2. April 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I love, love, LOVE this idea!!! It’s so beautiful and perfect, and just….magical.
    What a wonderful way to re-inforce the idea that books and stories are ment to be shared. It’s sort of like a bizarre extension of the village story-teller idea. I wonder if people ever leave new books in their that the original stewards haven’t read? I would start one today, except that I have a two-mile driveway and the only nieghbors are bears and elk. Trust me, they’d prefer the birdseed.

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