Last month, when I was on vacation in Ohio (we publishing folks lead very glamorous lives) my son stumbled across a Little Free Library box—a brightly painted shelf with a plexiglass door, a peaked dollhouse roof that was filled with a random but charming assortment of books ranging from Rick Riordon to the Book of Mormon. I’d read about Little Free Libraries before, but I’d never seen one, and they seem to me an absolutely lovely idea. My eight year-old was enchanted. Free books—tucked into a small green space beside a modest community garden—for him it was a wish come true. I know that the free exchange of used books is not so great for the publishing industry as a whole, but it seems to me—especially at this intimate, personal scale–a very good thing for the human race. In a month in which the news from much of the world has been grim, this struck me as a bright note.
The train station in my town has a Give a Book, Share a Book shelf that I patronize regularly in an effort to avoid becoming a a book hoarder—in Japanese known as a tsundoku (Thanks, LA Times) and I’ll bet you’ve got similar low-maintenance book swaps in your local coffeeshop, church, temple, or community center. These are great, but there’s something special, almost magical about the Little Free Library boxes.
You can see a gallery and visit the Little Free Library site here, and there’s information on how to start a LFL in your town.