"Without books the world would be empty, like a bucket without water."
November 28, 2014 1:47 AM   Subscribe

In this interview the splendid eight-year-old Madison makes it clear that she really loves books and the new Little Free Libraries that are in her Cleveland neighborhood of Fairfax. A Little Free Library [previous and ly] is a small, sturdy box full of books that local communities take are of all over the world. The non-profit organization behind it received the 2014 Innovation in Reading Award from the National Book Foundation.
posted by Kattullus (43 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Lovely!

I have a bookcase full of free books in my front yard, and it would be registered as a Little Free Library if that would not cost 35 dollars which I would be spending for no apparent real purpose. There are a lot of initiatives like this, LFL is just one of the most visible (mainly in the US).

Whatever gets people reading is fine with me.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:55 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


What is the typical result of a Little Free Library? When they tried a plan something like that on our local tram system (borrow a book from a net hanging on the back of the seat in front of you, read it, return it to the net when you're done), all the books were soon gone.
posted by pracowity at 2:39 AM on November 28, 2014


I don't know about typical, but I'm having the opposite problem: while I don't count on the books to come back, they often do. My books are registered on BookCrossing, so if they do not come back, that's my preferred outcome. They're not lost, they're travelling.

I don't think it's smart to expect people to bring the books back, though. Many of them won't.
But if they know that that's an option, they will often bring books of their own, and isn't that fine too?
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:45 AM on November 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've heard about these 'books', my grandpappy told me about 'em - - even showed me one once when I was a wee lad.

Supposedly you could buy them with something called 'cash'.
posted by fairmettle at 2:58 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


So now not only can people get everything on the Internet, if you insist on a physical wodge of paper you can get it from one of these: there's no longer any reason at all to keep those costly old public libraries open!!!

/jaundiced
posted by Segundus at 3:01 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Must be nice to have a kid who enjoys reading...
posted by Bugbread at 3:17 AM on November 28, 2014


When my wife and I were in Berlin recently we happened across the Book Forest.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:56 AM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


it would be registered as a Little Free Library if that would not cost 35 dollars which I would be spending for no apparent real purpose.

An apparent purpose would be that searching for libraries through the site could bring up your particular unit. I don't know that I'd want to kick in the $35, but I've been meaning to go to two LFLs that are about 1.5 miles from me and within a couple blocks of each other and pass off a few of my books. If it wasn't for the map I wouldn't know that they're (hopefully) there.
posted by mr. digits at 4:55 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Would it be wrong if I put a list outside my house of good books that you could download from the Pirate Bay?
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:11 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's one just around the corner from my house and it's always got books in it when I walk by. I love these things, anything that encourages the sharing of books is wonderful.
posted by arcticseal at 6:10 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


An apparent purpose would be that searching for libraries through the site could bring up your particular unit.

Yes, sure, but I don't think people do that kind of searching much over here. LFL is just not a very big thing here; on the other hand, open/free bookcases in general are, and there are plenty of sites that list them (maybe even too many) and that I do not have to pay for doing so.

Here's a nice example. Here's another one.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:28 AM on November 28, 2014


There should be an 'e' option at these. A usb plug that when you plug in your kindle (or some other non-fascist-ebook-reader) you get a random ebook uploaded onto your device.

(yes yes yes, what could possibly go wrong ;)
posted by sammyo at 6:30 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


there's no longer any reason at all to keep those costly old public libraries open!!!

In the next town over, the public library maintains three LFLs (including one along a multi-use trail)--among other things, they top them off with library-logo-stamped donated books. I think it's a chance for a cash-strapped system that serves a sprawling service area to make it easier for people to get to books, and, not incidentally, a nice branding opportunity.
posted by box at 6:48 AM on November 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


I have more than 15,000 ebooks, carefully manicured - metadata and all - and I regularly share these books with others.

We're a kind of monkish community. Not something we advertise, because it's partially illegal, but we monks are keeping intelligence alive during these dark ages.

You didn't hear it from me.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:59 AM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


I built a Library for my son. We paid the $35 to register it because it put us on the map, and in the grand scheme of things sending money to a group that promotes reading is never anything I am going to regret. They in turn keep us updated on offers for free or discounted books, news, programs and projects, and the like.

We were a bit concerned about keeping the Library full. We needn't have worried. Our neighbors loved it, and it is nearly always stuffed. When I went out last year and emptied the Library to scrape and repaint the roof, no less than three neighbors came up asking me if I was taking it down - all were upset at the idea of losing it!

There are at least 8 or 10 other Libraries within walking distance of our house. We are always checking them out. I have found some great books in them, and have had fun sharing my reads with others by sticking them in our own Library when done. My son checks constantly for "kid books" and is super excited whenever we find a good one!
posted by caution live frogs at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2014 [8 favorites]


I first noticed these in my neighborhood in Seattle - there was one near me that always seemed to be full, and almost always with different books.

Now in my neighborhood in DC, people are always putting books out on the sidewalk, but they often get rained on, so it would be nice if someone would put up a LFL (I can't, I live in an apartment building).
posted by lunasol at 7:03 AM on November 28, 2014


I have always wanted to install a LFL since discovering them back home in the US. When we lived in Quebec, we couldn't because we were one of the only two English families on the block so we figured no one would read the books anyway. But now that we're in Kingston and looking to buy a home again, I will definitely build and install one because damn, I read a lot and would love people to take my books when I am done.
posted by Kitteh at 7:10 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


We have an LFL in my out-in-the-Indiana-countryside neighborhood (though, for some reason, it's not on the LFL map). I've yet to check it out, though. Worse, I've thought of taking some of my own books to it, but I'm having a very hard time parting with any of them.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:20 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Our library partnered with some local non profits and now we have lfls all over. It's great and has turned out to be pretty useful. The one at the grade school is kid friendly books, the one at the art league tends to be arty, the one at the vfw is more action/cop/military.

It doesn't detract or distract from what the actual library does because they are different beasts that both just happen to promote literacy.

The way the lfls function here is you can just take and keep the book...it's not expected books will show back up.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:36 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Registering it for $35 not only puts it on the map but gives you a steward's packet with a lot of downloadable material. You also get access to a lot of books from publishers who will send them to you for only the cost of shipping. Plus, in addition to the spiffy customized wooden sign, you get a BUMPER STICKER. Who could ask for more?

This is a topic that I've discussed with my dad (the co-founder). He agrees that it needs to have more than just symbolic value, especially for the people who have already spent money on the library itself.
posted by Madamina at 7:38 AM on November 28, 2014 [25 favorites]


Also, some of the lfls were dropped into areas where parents don't necessarily have access to transportation or the time to get to the actual library.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:41 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Holy crap Madamina, tell your dad that he's awesome for co-founding lfl!
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:46 AM on November 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


Must be nice to have a kid who enjoys reading...

And Extemporaneous Declamation. Sign that kid up for the Forensics Team.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:55 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


We recently moved our driveway and are turning the old driveway into a yard. We've been throwing around the idea of putting a little free library box on a post in the new fence.

The grocery store nearby already has a version of this, writ large. Unfortunately, it seems that while it does get some withdrawals, it's mostly a sort of dumping ground for people's unwanted books. I think if ours were to succeed, it would have to have a theme or something.
posted by ODiV at 8:10 AM on November 28, 2014


It's pretty hard to get motivated about building anything outside when it's -30C out. And when it's this cold who is going to be coming around to look at the books?
posted by ODiV at 8:31 AM on November 28, 2014


Last year I helped our local girl scout troop build a LFL. They were contagiously excited and I got a chance to be a role model for them - yes, there ARE women who build things! Yay!

There are always books in it & they rotate regularly. It was a rewarding experience in a lot of ways.
posted by yoga at 8:50 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


"When they tried a plan something like that on our local tram system (borrow a book from a net hanging on the back of the seat in front of you, read it, return it to the net when you're done), all the books were soon gone."

My local library set up a shelf like this at the town's commuter train station and sent paperbacks being weeded out there with a "take a book, leave a book" sign; they had to expand it to four shelves because people so overstuffed the shelf that it kept falling off the wall. There are always people browsing through while waiting for the train and lot of folks dropping "airport paperbacks" at the end of their commute. The library weeds it once a month but they only rarely have to add to the stock ... in fact it's a bit of a failure in terms of getting rid of library paperbacks!

People even drop morning papers on a table near it for later commuters who want to browse the paper.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:16 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it works, BTW, because the station is a town station so people think of it as part of their community; on the bus or train itself, it would be harder to sustain because that's not a part of the community, and a big-city mass transit station would probably be similarly more difficult to keep a little library running on goodwill. This one people feel a lot of ownership for because its a small commuter town NEAR a big city, but still a small town.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:20 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Registering it for $35 not only puts it on the map but gives you a steward's packet with a lot of downloadable material. You also get access to a lot of books from publishers who will send them to you for only the cost of shipping. Plus, in addition to the spiffy customized wooden sign, you get a BUMPER STICKER. Who could ask for more?

I'm not asking for more, but I'm still not interested. I'm assuming the downloadable material is in English, which is not widely spoken [well enough to read flyers and such things] in my (fairly rural) community; the books from publishers would probably be too expensive for me to get, if they would be willing to send them across the ocean at all. Plus, English again. I make my own signs. I would use the bumper sticker though...

For someone who lives in the US, it would probably be worth it and some would consider it a great deal. For the rest of us, not so much.

But I still appreciate them spreading the idea of free bookcases in the US. Someone has to do it and it looks like they are doing a fine job.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:07 AM on November 28, 2014


Well, Too-Ticky, the whole concept is just a couple of years old -- but it has been international almost since the beginning. I don't know why you're hitting on it for being US-centric. Still, nobody's forcing you to register or use the materials in English or provide English-language books. The idea can work without the branding.

I will say this -- they are having trouble because their database has outstripped the GMaps interface:
As of early July, we discovered (to our dismay) that we could no longer “pin” new Library locations to the existing Google World Map. So what happens now? It may take several months to get a new map up and running.

That suggests they are working on something but I know MeFi has some GIS nerds and it would be great if anybody could hook them up with some open source options or even help them get it going.

Also, I suppose a phone app wouldn't hurt, particularly for travelers. (Don't mind me, I'm just lazywebbing.)

My general impression about these is that most of them are successful enough for the proprietors. A few get vandalized/emptied from time to time, but many times public appeals or just community spirit get them back in shape soon enough. I think the branding can be a factor in how committed/permanent the installation seems. I know of two "unregistered" libraries -- shelves inside buildings -- that get little usage. It would be difficult to do a real study about locations, area demographics or traffic, and so forth but I think the results would be surprisingly positive based on what I've seen.
posted by dhartung at 10:45 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is a little free library right across the street from my house. It was fun, when it was new, to watch people walk by, sort of do a double take and then open it up to look inside. We are a very walky neighbourhood and get a lot of pedestrians and dog walkers who drop by it so it's never been empty that I have seen. I have noticed a couple of local businesses will come by and leave a bunch of advertising bookmarks inside the library, which I can't decide is useful or annoying. They hit the other two LFLs within walking distance too.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:50 AM on November 28, 2014


Back to the video itself: that kid is gonna go places! she's already mastered some pretty effective rhetorical devices, and is charismatic on top of it! made my day!
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:15 AM on November 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


they are having trouble because their database has outstripped the GMaps interface

The appendix (with July-October additions) confirms my anecdotal suspicions here in the Denver area: LFLs are popping up all over. At least 30 new ones within or very close to the city limits by my rough count.

The local Ingress community has been tagging them as portals, which makes for a fun spontaneous discovery on my phone sometimes.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:18 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Even though we have them all over the place in Minneapolis, it's still a delightful surprise to come across new ones. Some neighbors on our cul-de-sac built one, and it's always stuffed full because unfortunately we don't get enough foot traffic foor books to get taken away on a regular basis. I found one a couple blocks away that was a little emptier, so next time I have some books to give away I'll hike over there.
posted by spacewaitress at 2:58 PM on November 28, 2014


"Our Little Free Library will be the Tardis, because books are bigger on the inside too!"
posted by spacewaitress at 3:00 PM on November 28, 2014


So now not only can people get everything on the Internet, if you insist on a physical wodge of paper you can get it from one of these: there's no longer any reason at all to keep those costly old public libraries open!!!

We've got a "take a book, leave a book" shelf in our frontyard, and there's another in the neighborhood. My daughter's elementary school (which has a pretty good library) also does the same thing. It's a good idea.

However, cynical me kinda feels the same way. Let's get these people some real libraries. Having a quality local library branch system is essential to a well-informed community. It's more important than public schooling, IMO, because it's available to all ages.

As welcome as these little "libraries" are, they are not enough. Cuz I'll be honest--the selection at these little bookshelves (at least in my town) pales in comparison to the local library. If I want to get a book (or books for my kids) I will always go to the library.

Must be nice to have a kid who enjoys reading...

One of the greatest things in the world. My kids have never ever told me "I'm bored."
posted by mrgrimm at 4:56 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


people have re-purposed disused newspaper boxes for this in my town
posted by thelonius at 5:07 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been glad to read about LFLs because I had assumed up to now that all the books were from the property owner and the box was essentially a means of proselytizing. The real intent is much more pro-social, it's nice.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:35 PM on November 28, 2014


pracowity: "What is the typical result of a Little Free Library? When they tried a plan something like that on our local tram system (borrow a book from a net hanging on the back of the seat in front of you, read it, return it to the net when you're done), all the books were soon gone."

I'm guessing it works for a week or two, and then meth-heds loot the place.
posted by pwnguin at 12:07 AM on November 29, 2014


There's one near my parents' house and I've definitely made use of it while on visits. Really nice thing.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:19 AM on November 29, 2014


I had assumed up to now that [...] the box was essentially a means of proselytizing.

Well, it is. In a way.
It proselytises for reading. Cool, isn't it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:46 PM on November 29, 2014


I also proselytize for libraries.
posted by box at 5:00 PM on November 29, 2014


I have a kid very much like this kid. It's kind of tiring sometimes just trying to keep up but man, we never want for entertainment around here.

Let's get these people some real libraries. Having a quality local library branch system is essential to a well-informed community. It's more important than public schooling, IMO, because it's available to all ages.

I live in Madison, Wisconsin, where little free libraries got started, and they're ubiquitous. Which is interesting, because we also have the most accessible library system of anywhere I've ever lived. Rather than focus on making every library architecturally beautiful, the city has put some branches in ugly strip malls in order to fund a lot of them. 9 branches in a city of like 250,000 people or something like that. My old house had three within a couple miles, all of them easily accessible by transit and open very convenient hours.

So, in other places these might be going up as responses to library scarcity, I don't know. Here I see them as part of a larger culture of literacy and support for education.
posted by gerstle at 3:49 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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