Want a book? Head to a rocket ship in Boulder, Colo., a fairy-tale cottage near Ghent, Belgium, or a tree in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
These are just three of the more than 80,000 Little Free Libraries in more than 90 countries.
Unlike traditional libraries, these typically small structures aren’t buildings where people check out books from a librarian.
“A Little Free Library is a box full of books that, when you find one, you can take a book home with you,” explains Margret Aldrich, Little Free Library spokeswoman. “Or if you have a book to share, you can leave it for someone else to read.”
Little Free Libraries are everywhere: outside homes, inside recreational centers, beside coffee shops.
The first was set on a post in front of Todd Bol’s home in Hudson, Wisconsin, 10 years ago. The miniature schoolhouse Bol built held free books anyone could enjoy.
It became a local hit.
“I put up my library and noticed my neighbors talking to it like it was a little puppy,” Bol, who died of cancer last year, told The Washington Post in 2013. “And I realized there was some kind of magic about it.”
A year after installing his library, Bol and Rick Brooks, a friend and business partner, launched Little Free Library, registering it as a nonprofit organization in 2012. Their goal was to make books more widely available while strengthening bonds within communities.
They sparked a book-sharing revolution.
Little Free Libraries began popping up all over the place — from Salvador, Brazil, to Grand Marais, Minn. — with the concept’s popularity spreading through word of mouth and social media.
Today, those who want to build one can download free instructions from the Little Free Library website (littlefreelibrary.org). Some, however, have let their imaginations run wild.
For other library owners, the motivation is simply spreading the joy of reading.
“There weren’t many public places like libraries where I live,” says 10-year-old Umayr Ansari, who put a Little Free Library outside his home in Doha, Qatar, in 2013. “I had a lot of extra books, and I wanted to share them so people who didn’t have their own books could have a chance to read.”
Similarly, the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas’ Troop 300 has a goal of distributing 300 libraries this year throughout San Antonio in an effort to provide books to kids who may not be able to easily reach a library. The troop has built 285 so far.
The experience had a lasting impact on 11-year-old Scout Ava Jellick.
“I liked building the libraries and getting the feeling of, ‘Wow, I helped make that,’ “ she says. “That gave me pride and confidence.”
She got a copy of “The Hunger Games.”
To find a Little Free Library near you, check out a world map at littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap.(Not all of the LFLs may be listed.)