The Rapid Growth of Little Free Libraries

Recently, the Little Free Library Sharing Network, welcomed its 90,000th member in to “the world’s largest book-sharing movement.”

The Network is managed by Little Free Library, a non-profit organisation “that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”

Based in the USA, Little Free Library has several high-profile partners and friends. Some examples include Library of Congress, Habitat for Humanity, Books for Africa, the International Literacy Association, Chevrolet and United Way, among others.

While 90,000 members is a considerable achievement, the capacity for growth is unlimited as there is no limit on the number of people/ organizations/ community groups and others who want to set up their own little free libraries.

The numbers of little free libraries are likely much higher as not all library owners have registered their libraries with the Network and many might only have joined the local networks in their towns, cities, or countries.

So, what is a little free library? As defined by Little Free Library themselves, a “Little Free Library is a ‘take a book, return a book’ free book exchange.” They work on an honesty system whereby people who use them are encouraged to give something back for the benefit of others.

They can come in all types of designs, shapes, sizes, and colors, and the people or organizations that design them are free to add their own unique, personal touch. Often, there is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community, and that the design of the library reflects the character and personality of its designer.

Little free libraries are also not limited only to sharing books. Many accept, and promote, the sharing of magazines, other reading materials, audio books, and/or DVDs. The general idea is to encourage increased reading and to make resources available for people to read and then share with others.

Multiple academic and scientific studies have proved the benefits of reading from a young age. Little Free Library notes that “children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with books, even when controlled for other key factors.”

The rising popularity of little free libraries has inspired the establishment and growth of other country non-profit organizations similar to Little Free Library. For example, in Australia, Street Library has been established with three main goals in mind. These include encouraging literacy, encouraging community, and getting to 5,000 street libraries by December 2021. Currently, there are 1,443 registered street libraries across Australia.

In South Africa, the Little Libraries initiative was launched in Cape Town to provide “pre-schools with a reading corner where kids can learn, dream, and enjoy a whole new world though words and pictures – unlocking their imaginations.” After five years of operation they have already supported 8,500 children across 250 schools through the provision of 30,000 books.

Inspired by this article and the growth of little free libraries across the world? Then, why don’t you consider starting your own and join in the “world’s largest book-sharing movement?”


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