Building Momentum for Little Free Libraries

It’s been four years since international business consultant Todd Bol constructed a wooden replica of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books, and mounted it on a post in his front yard in a suburb of metropolitan Minneapolis, Hudson, Wis., in tribute to his late mother. A sign urged passersby to take free books or else leave books. Today, Bol and Rick Brooks, an instructor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, head up the nonprofit organization Little Free Library, which promotes literacy through both sales and donations.

LFL has more than 5,000 registered structures in all 50 states and in approximately 40 countries. “We know there are many more than that,” Bol said, estimating there may be closer to 6,000 little free libraries at this point. “Many people build libraries and never register with us or tell us.”

The LFL movement has exploded in the last year, with 4,000 registrations in 2012 compared to 100 the previous year. While 90% of the libraries to date are in the U.S., and most library registrations have been made by individuals, with some businesses involved, Bol said that there’s been a recent shift: more public libraries, museums, schools, and other nonprofits are establishing partnerships with LFL. “I suspect we’ll double in under six months what we are doing,” Bol noted. “Our momentum is growing.”