How to Start a Little Free Library

I love little libraries- I frequent the local ones, dropping off and picking up reads all the time. However, my little town didn’t have one, and I thought it would be a perfectly great idea to see if I could make one appear. I thought I’d share the process with you all, incase you’d like to do the same someday!


First things first- I obsessively researched what kind of library would be best, how much it would cost, what I needed to do to get it registered, etc. I spent a lot of time reading on, as well as searching on


The next thing I did was contact my city officials. I could have put the library on my personal property, but I wanted the library to be in a more public place that would allow for easy access.


I got permission to put the LFL up on main street, near our railroad town’s Caboose.

I went on their official website and sent an email to the city clerk, asking who I should contact about the project, and if there was any prior interest in the idea. She quickly responded with an invitation to speak at their monthly officials meeting to pitch the idea to the commissioner board. Because it’s a very small town (population 300), when I arrived at the meeting, I immediately recognized two of my neighbors, which put me at ease, and I had written a little script about why I was interested in bringing a little library to the town, which helped me hit all the points that I wanted to make:

  • Benefit of having a little library
  • Location of library
  • Type of library
  • Funding for project

We don’t have a physical library in town, though the county library will deliver books to a designated drop-off area, so once I explained the “have a book, take a book” concept, they were intrigued.


I already outlined how much would be needed for a post and library topper, so I gave the commissioners an estimate. My goal was to provide an option that was economical, but still good quality, so I intended to stay around a $400 budget. PRO TIP: Factor in shipping costs of these items. I did not, and then had to double back when I realized shipping would add almost $200 extra dollars!!

Initially, they agreed to go halves with me on the cost of materials up to $300, leaving me to fund-raise the rest. I made a spreadsheet with everything necessary. After realizing my mistake of not calculating in shipping costs, I proposed the following materials:

  •  A topper from Amazon from a woodworker in Missouri, fully assembled with two shelves, and hardware to mount to a 4×4 post. Cost: $179.00 plus $44.49 for standard shipping. Buying directly from the Little Free Library website would have more than doubled this amount.
  • 4″x4″x 8′ treated lumber post from Lowes. Cost: $8.67.
  • 40lb bag of Quikrete for stability. Cost: $32.00. I originally bought a 2lb bag, and it was laughably not enough.
  • Charter Sign. Cost: $39.00 plus $7 shipping. Necessary in order to register it with the Little Free Library organization.

TOTAL COST: $310.16

Now, I know that isn’t in everybody’s budget, but it was the most efficient and economic solution for this case. The mayor generously agreed that they would cover the cost of these materials.


I’m absolutely terrible at this. At the officials meeting, one of the commissioners kick-started my fundraising with $100 (I know, I was shocked too!) Then I started a GoFundMe that absolutely failed. I shared it a bunch of times on social media, but to no avail. I’m also not a great door-to-door girl, so I decided that I would match the commissioner and try to keep the additional materials under $200.


When I ordered the topper, it had the choice of coming finished or not. I chose to do the finishing work, so I needed the following:

  • Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths. Cost: $12.00. These are the best. Super easy to use, easy clean up, and quick drying time.
  • Thompson WaterSeal Spray. Cost: $7.00.
  • Disposable Latex Gloves. Cost: $6.00
  • Drill/ Screwdriver. Owned.
  • Gorilla Wood Glue.  Owned from previous projects.
  • BOOKS! (But we’ll get to that in a minute…)

TOTAL COST: $25.00



Once I had all the materials necessary to finish the little library, I had to do a little work! This is where really creative people might paint and have fun designing their library. I like a really simple, classic look, so I went with a natural finish. Once it was dry, I added the hardware that would make it easy to mount to the post, as well as the charter sign.



This was by far the most fun and easiest part of the whole project! I spent a couple of weekends browsing the secondhand bookshops and thrift stores for copies of old favorites to fill the little library. I also went to Friends of the Library sales and shops (most of our local libraries have a selection of books for sale, and proceeds go back to the library). I also sent out a message on social media to my friends and family, asking for book donations and getting an overwhelming response!


Does anyone else buy purses with how many books they can fit inside in mind?


Since I was placing the little library on city property, one of the city commissioners (Hi Mike!) helped make sure the installation process was done correctly. He took a post digger and dug the hole for the post (and hit bedrock at 17 inches- that’s Kentucky soil for you). He made the hole a little wider and added the Quikrete dry- yes, dry. It rained for about 2 days after, and this allowed the powder to absorb the moisture in the soil, and made the base super sturdy. Once the post had settled and dried (and it had stopped raining) we cut the post to size with a cordless circular saw, so that it was 3.5 feet from top to ground. Then we secured the topper with a few screws that were provided with purchase. The process (not including drying time) took about an hour.

Once the library was installed, we adjusted the shelf inside, and then I added the initial books. I also included a little notepad that had a list of rules:

  1. This little library is free, so you make take a book or give a book (or two!)
  2. This library is voluntarily run, so please respect the library, the books, and the volunteers.
  3. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please write them here!

I wanted to give any participants a chance to communicate with me, without having my contact information. I’m hoping that it will be helpful!


The Little Free Library organization calls those who maintain the little libraries ‘Stewards’, and they have amazing resources to help you manage your library. When the charter sign arrived, it comes with tips and tricks on all sorts of ways to attract those in your community to your library, how to maintain a book stash, and how to problem solve issues that may occur. By registering with them, it also allows you to map your little library, get access to their Stewards Facebook group, and enter in some amazing book giveaways.


The little library is now open, and I hope it is looked upon as a little treasure in our town. I’m excited to give back to my community and share my love of reading with the locals!


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