Little Free Libraries

April 12, 2019

There may not be a more democratic institution than the public library. There is access for everyone, and titles that run the gamut from fantasy to fan fiction and everything in between. As old as books and reading, libraries are a worldwide institution, recognizable to all.

Perhaps an even more democratic version of this institution, however, is the little free library.  Erected on street corners, on nature trails, and sometimes housed indoors, these libraries—located throughout Northern Michigan and beyond—might offer a more limited range of services, but the operation is also more simple: you can take any book you like, or return any book you like. You can opt not to replace too, though this makes it more difficult for those who visit after you.

There are a variety of solid reasons to use little free libraries, and here are five of the top reasons for doing so:

  1. Lending is not only free, but you do not need a library card. Ordinarily, to access your public library, you need a card and proof of residency.  Not so with a little free library. Just walk up, peruse the titles, and if something catches your eye, open the door and check out the book.
  2. Rotating titles and subjects:  Because passersby keep these libraries stocked, there is no telling what you might find when you open the door. I keep rotating books into my own little library when it gets depleted, and sometimes the books come back, and sometimes they do not.
  3. Online detox: Nearly a fifth of Americans feel technology adds stress to their lives, according to the American Psychological Association. No such stress is added when you check out a book from a free little library. In fact, the more time you spend reading that book, the less time you will spend checking for online updates.
  4. Travel companions: You can find the location of all registered free little libraries at, which means you can find books nearly anywhere you go. As well, if you install a little library, you can add the location so others can find your books easily. In addition, little libraries largely stock paperbacks, which are easier to carry while traveling.
  5. Discovering new authors: Like a mini bookstore, the little free library commonly fill with an eclectic combination of authors and titles, so don’t just look for a writer you know, but explore and experiment. The price is right, and if you decide you don’t like the book, put it back for another reader.

Last summer, a friend helped me put up a free little library on the picket fence at the edge of my Mackinac Island yard, accessible to hundreds of passersby each summer day. Books come and (mostly) go.  

I appreciate watching people’s reactions, along with the ebb and flow of books, knowing how readers are taking advantage of some of these solid reasons, as well as finding many of their own,  for using the free little library.

Little Free Libraries
Avatar for Glen Young