a red, white, and light blue Little Free Library in the shape of a house that is sitting in the yard of red brick house

How much time and money does it take to maintain a small free library?

Small free libraries, or LFLs as they are sometimes called, have become a common feature of many neighborhoods. Small and usually with a window in the front, these tiny libraries are a place where passers-by can pick up and drop off used books to encourage reading in the community. Many homes with a small free library have taken up the challenge of differentiating their small collection of books, with designs ranging from simple to ornate. Although the principle is simple: take books, leave books and do everything for free, the cost of a small free library is not so simple. The “stewards” of small free libraries actually spend quite a bit of time organizing and maintaining their collection.

To establish an official small free library – meaning your library will be registered by the organization and put on its card, plus you will receive a metal nameplate for your library – you must first apply for a charter sign. Currently, charter panels cost $40 per library and also give stewards access to a Facebook group and book giveaways to help maintain their libraries. After purchasing a charter board, Little Free Library owners can then choose to build their own library or purchase a pre-built one from the site. According to the Little Free Library site, the average cost of these pre-built options is $250, with stewards also having to factor in additional costs, such as installing a pole or other perch on which the library can sit.

Small free bookcases can be anything from a simple plywood box with a door, to elaborate setups that feature electric lighting or are replicas of a nearby building or landmark. In my own neighborhood, I’ve seen these miniature libraries adorned with everything from fire stations to fairy houses, and many of them swap decorations with the seasons. However, it is possible to get creative and reuse old file drawers, cabinets, etc., to reduce the cost of the initial construction. Additionally, libraries also need ongoing maintenance to maintain their good looks, a cost that stewards will need to budget for.

After the basic start-up costs, the next task is to stock the library with books. While the premise of the Little Free Library is that books are redeemed by members of the community for free, the reality is that many stewards I know draw from their own collections or purchase books specifically to stock their libraries. As any second-hand librarian or bookseller can tell you, people have a hard time getting rid of books, which means small free libraries often find themselves crammed full of old computer manuals, outdated guidebooks and novels that get stale. collapse. Stewards must devote both time and money to building a solid collection of interest to those choosing books, not just those looking to get rid of them.

Besides cost, time is also a major factor in maintaining a miniature library. Along with maintaining the physical structure of the library is purchasing books, disposing of the collection, and ensuring that materials are organized in an attractive way for visitors. The Little Free Library Group also encourages charter sign holders to advertise their library in the neighborhood or at local businesses, or consider hosting pop-up events or giveaways that can be promoted on social networks. social. Some owners even cultivate a specific type of small free library focusing on topics such as local authors, miscellaneous stories, or non-fiction. This, of course, takes additional time and resources.

If you’re considering becoming the steward of your own little free library, it’s important to consider whether you have the time and resources to make it an enjoyable experience for yourself and anyone who helps you. While the costs associated with small free bookcases can get quite high, it’s also very possible to build a bookcase using existing items and work to stock it with books you find for free. There are also groups like Diverstories that maintain wishlists to help send books to libraries and communities and help spread small free libraries to areas where they are less common.

When I spoke to several Little Free Library owners via Instagram, they had a range of experiences. Some had spent as much as $1,000 on their charter board, custom-built library by a local designer, and new books in their collection. Most, however, cited their start-up costs — that is, charter sign and library structure — as being around $200. The average steward spends an hour a week tending to the library, but as one steward noted, that doesn’t include time spent making your yard attractive as a library site. Overall, most library stewards I spoke to found the experience positive and rewarding and said it helped them share their love of reading with their community.

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