Little Free Library

The Hill Country’s first Little Free Library appeared in Kerrville last year, shown here with Club Ed director Dorothy Beene. Photo by Phil Houseal

Nov 20, 2013–Little Free Library is one of those ideas you wish you had thought of.

The concept is simple: You set out a cute box full of books, and invite anyone to stop by and “take a book, return a book.”

The execution, however, has turned into a national phenomenon. It all started in 2009 in Wisconsin, where Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother. He filled it with books and put it in his front yard. The idea was to have people pick up and leave any books they fancied. When he saw the response from friends and neighbors, he built more models and gave them away. He and a friend saw the possibilities with the concept and formed Little Free Libraries. By the end of the first year, there were 400.

Their original goal was to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries, to match the number of libraries philanthropist Andrew Carnegie supported. But by January 2014 they will have watched their idea spread to the point there are now more than 12,000 around the world.

The nearest one (at the time of this writing) is in Boerne to the south, Austin to the east, Brownwood to the north, and Timbuktu to the west. Last year I set up the first Little Free Library in the Hill Country. It was a going away gift to the Dietert Center in Kerrville. They had a book sharing program anyway, but it was in a cardboard box on the floor. So we set up a bookshelf, then went online and registered the location for a small fee. Now it appears on the national locator map at

One appeal of the tiny kiosks is the creative cubicles craftsmen build. Many are based on models of schoolhouses. But the web site features boxes that evoke dollhouses, outhouses, cupboards, barns, hollow trees, mailboxes, churches, birdhouses, newspaper racks, and phone booths. I can imagine the many craftspeople around here coming up with a design that will surpass those.

Here’s the recipe to set up your own Little Free Library:

  • Decide on a location and a steward who will look after it.
  • Build your library.
  • Order your Steward’s Packet to get your official Charter sign with registration number. That makes it official and puts you on the map. It costs $35.
  • Fill it with books.
  • Watch people use it.

That’s all there is to it.

The true appeal of the libraries is not just sharing the books. Other benefits range from creating neighborhood gathering places to helping business owners attract customers to even increasing home values.

Plus, they are fun.

So why not install a Little Free Library of your own?


All details on setting up your own Little Free Library are at See a photo gallery at