Little Free Library: Books Beneath the Willow

Little Free Library Campbell

Little Free Library Campbell

Several times in the past few months, I’ve passed what looked like a tiny, curbside library.  I’d heard about these little libraries somewhere, but it was just a vague idea, tucked away in my brain.  I had never actually seen one and assumed they were ‘somewhere else.’  Do you know that place too?

Well guess what?  We have one right here in our neighborhood.  I’m hooked!  I finally took the time to stop the car to show my sister, then went back later with my husband, a couple of books and my camera.  It was so much fun!

Here is what I’ve since learned about the movement:

It started as a simple tribute to his mother, a teacher and bibliophile. Todd Bol put up a miniature version of a one-room schoolhouse on a post outside his home in this western Wisconsin city, filled it with books and invited his neighbors to borrow them.

They loved it, and began dropping by so often that his lawn became a gathering spot. Then a friend in Madison put out some similar boxes and got the same reaction. More home-crafted libraries began popping up around Wisconsin’s capital.

Three years later, the whimsical boxes are a global sensation. They number in the thousands and have spread to at least 36 countries, in a testimonial to the power of a good idea, the simple allure of a book and the wildfire of the internet.   You can read more at  the Source: Open Salon

Little Free Library and a bench

Browsing the selection on a nearby bench at the Little Free Library in Campbell

little free library collage

Little Free Library registration, the long view, art among the books, and how the library works

The charming Little Free Library pictured above is in Campbell, California. We’re so smitten that we plan to build one of our own.  I started pinning ideas on Pinterest over the weekend. The designs are as varied as books, all delightfully unique and inviting.

The idea of a Little Free Library appeals to my love of gardens, books and community. I plan to involve my boys in some way, either helping their dad build it or coming up with an initial book offering.  I can’t wait to get going.

Have you heard of the Little Free Library movement?  Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Pinned it!

Check out some of these beautiful library designs on Pinterest and let me know your favorite.  I bet you can guess mine. As it turns out, they have their own page, too (thanks Betsy!)

54 thoughts on “Little Free Library: Books Beneath the Willow

  1. Great photos! I have never heard of this before – what a fabulous idea! I will find you on pinterest and have a look at other ideas too. I used to be one of those people who left books on park benches or coffee shop tables for others to take, don’t do that much any more as I gave away all my books!


    • Thank you!

      I love that idea, too. My mom used to do that all the time with her newspaper and magazines as well. She road the bus everywhere, so she left them on the bench. People were always happy to get them.


  2. What a wonderful idea!!!! Just love it. I share so many of my books that I often buy more than one of something I really like. A little spot to rest and read while walking, how much better could it get. I’m repinning them all.


  3. I looked at the map on the website and found two more close by and the girls and went to another one yesterday. It is the cutest and it matches the house (purple doors on both) In addition, there are a ton of beautiful, wooden bird houses in their tree (I mean, a ton) I will post photos soon. Can’t wait to come and visit yours and drop off books. The one yesterday had some DVDs too


    • I just searched the directory and saw about five or six in San Jose. How wonderful that you went to see more. I also found one in Edmonton! Love it.

      Post soon. Oh and birdhouses….be still my heart.


  4. I love the Little Free Libraries! We have two in the neighbourhood adjacent to ours…they’re such a fabulous way to share a love of reading! One of them is built out of an old newspaper vending machine, which I think is so clever. That’s wonderful that you’re planning to set one up!


    • You’re so sweet! I can’t wait to get started. I’m trying to source some old wood. Might start with our community free cycle. Will also check a local vintage shop. Old and re-purposed is good, but weather and pest proof is also key.


  5. I just know it’ll be a big success. Amazing how fast people have adopted the idea. The love of reading is a gift my dad gave me. He’d read a bedtime story to us every night from the Children’s Worldbook Encyclopedia. We’d all pile into one bed :D. I enjoyed your Pinterest board and linked to another from there that had some really cute ones too. Alys, you and Mouse be out there chatting up readers all day! Awesome!


    • What a lovely image of you, dad and your sibs piled in for a good read. I loved reading to my boys and read every single day for as long as they would let me. For C, we stopped in the third grade. He announced one day that his teacher wanted them to read themselves and that was that. Made me sad. I read to my younger son much longer (5th grade I think). It was so fun re-reading some of my own childhood favorites, too, along with discovering new ones.

      It is amazing how fast people are adopting this. It tells me that we are sorely lacking in community-based projects like this. Take that Big Malls!


  6. I am also in LOVE with this idea. I’ve seen pictures of them in Great Britain built inside of
    their old, red, iconic phone booths. What a perfect way to get acquainted with your
    neighbors; sharing books.


  7. I’ve never seen anything like this before – and I love it! In an era where almost everything we do costs money – it so fabulous to have something where the key focus isn’t profit-based, but sharing-based. Such a wonderful community-focused project. Also lovely these Little Libraries celebrate real books – when electronic books have been such a big thing lately. Can’t wait to see your Little Library – no doubt with Mouse perched comfortably on top!


    • Well said! I read a ton of things online, but can’t imagine giving up paper books. They feel, smell and read differently. I love them. I think, too, that it’s important that children learn to read that way first. The experience of moving through pages, lingering, going back. I hope they never die off.

      Mouse has quite the reputation around here, and with my readers. Perhaps I can incorporate his likeness in some way. Food for thought…thanks for that.


  8. Absolutely fantastic! I love this idea to death. When I was in Equador, there were a few places just like this. I tell you I have not read so many books in my life. There is something so wonderful about stopping by somewhere you’ve never been, browsing books, taking one, the leaving one you’ve just read. I do believe I read the most books ever at that time. You’ve made me want to go back. How nice, you have one in your neighbourhood. 🙂


    • Gjeo, what a great story! It makes sense that when access to free books is simple and easy, people will read. This idea seems to be resonating with everyone, which tells me we have a great need for this in all societies. I love the idea.


  9. This is a lovely post. I’d never heard of these Little Free Libraries. I live in England and shall investigate whether a similar interest has sparked here. It’s nice to know that in some places ‘community’ and ‘sharing’ are still very much promoted!

    ps: I hope there’s no ‘late fees’ hehe 🙂


  10. I would so love to put some of these around my town and the towns next to mine. I do not have a house though. so cool. I wonder if my management office would let us do one there. Love the post.


    • Kim, it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I’ve looked at several of these little libraries online: they’re near shops, and public places as well. Let me know if you pursue the idea. Thanks for your comments.


  11. Many thanks for featuring my little library on your blog. I am pleased that it is getting so much use. I posted a link to this blog on my facebook page and have had a lot of comments. I plan to visit some of the other free libraries in our area. The artwork on the cabinet was done by a local artist from the Willow Glen area, my friend, Katy Kindig.
    BTW, I am enjoying your blog. Beautiful pictures, good ideas.


    • Hello Carmencita! So nice of you to comment and share. I’m delighted to learn more about the artist and to share your library and the idea with others.

      Thanks for reading my blog and for your nice comments. It’s great to be appreciated.


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