The Neighborhood Book Exchange That’s Taking Over the World

If you need a book (or have one to spare), chances are there’s a Little Free Library near you.  #projectliteracy

A Little Free Library in Sudan. Image courtesy Malaz Khojali.

At the Title I elementary school in Fort Worth, Texas, where Belinda King Scholl is librarian, every student receives free breakfast and lunch, and most don’t have books at home. So when Scholl’s husband offered to build a Little Free Library (a small wooden structure containing free books) in their front yard a half-mile from school, Scholl jumped at the idea.

Scholl’s Little Free Library—LFL for short—opened in July, and the neighborhood kids (most of whom are low-income and attend her school) already consider it a local branch of their school library. “One of these neighbor-students, a sweet little fourth-grade girl, helps me stock our LFL,” Scholl says. “I’ve given her two large boxes of children’s books, and she checks the LFL daily to tidy it and restock as needed. I call her my Junior Librarian and she just loves it. So do I.”

Scholl’s is one of more than 30,000 Little Free Libraries scattered across all 50 states and over 70 countries, in people’s yards and at schools, police stations, public spaces, and other locations. Wisconsin resident Todd Bol created the first Little Free Library in 2009 as a memorial to his mother, a former schoolteacher and lifelong reader.

“He built this miniature one-room schoolhouse and designed to fill it with books and share it with his neighbors,” explains Margret Aldrich, author of The Little Free Library Book and a spokesperson for the organization, which is now incorporated as a nonprofit. “He teamed up with a man named Rick Brooks in Madison, Wisconsin. From there, it really just grew through a grassroots, community-driven spirit.” Neighbors who might otherwise never know one another pause to check the selection at their local LFL or chat about favorite books, prompting some people to call LFLs “mini town squares” for the sense of community they foster.

The Little Free Library organization encourages stewards to create LFLs in their communities, but it has a particular emphasis on book deserts, areas where kids and families don’t have easy access to books. “Maybe the libraries don’t have hours that accommodate family schedules,” Aldrich says. “If you look at small-town America, about 11,000 small towns in this country don’t have libraries. Our focus is on helping to establish Little Free Libraries to maybe fill in that gap.”

A program called Kids, Community and Cops puts LFLs in police departments located in low-income neighborhoods and encourages positive interactions between kids and cops rather than the “cat and mouse” relationship that exists in some communities.

People are encouraged to take a book and leave a book, although that doesn’t always happen. Malaz H. Khojali, a journalist and TV presenter in Sudan, oversees three LFLs and helped fund seven in her community. “Some people were concerned about safety issues such as ‘What if the books were stolen?’ or ‘What if the LFL was destroyed?’ because in my country books are very expensive and are not easily available,” she says, adding that U.S. trade sanctions prohibit Americans from mailing book donations and make it harder for her to source books. “I always had the idea that even if someone never returns or sells the book it will eventually end up being read, and that serves the purpose overall.”

Robin Ross-Henning, who along with her friend Annmarie Crowley founded and manages an LFL in the reading garden at Sunny Hill Elementary School in Carpentersville, Illinois, says some of the kids who frequent the LFL keep books because they don’t have any at home. “We’re just really happy that the kids like them enough to keep them,” she says.

Ross-Henning notes that they try to work with the school to create seasonal happenings and build excitement around their LFL. “For Halloween, we did a Goosebumps takeover and filled the LFL with those books,” she says. “It was a big hit—the kids cleaned us out.” Over half of the kids at Sunny Hill are English learners, so a fundraising campaign helped stock the LFL with books in Spanish. (Scholl’s LFL also stocks Spanish books to reflect the needs of her neighborhood’s kids.)

Inclusiveness is a key part of the LFL movement. “It accommodates people of any economic background, any geographic background,” Aldrich says. “I love how Little Free Library just embraces everybody. Maybe people who don’t have a home address, maybe people who can’t get a library card. This gives them an opportunity to pick up a book and take it home with them.”


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet