Bonnie Dilber has a new library in her neighborhood in Austin, TX. Actually, it’s in her front yard.

LawnStarter recently set up a Little Free Library in front of Dilber’s home in South Austin. As the name implies, the library is little — roughly the size of a large birdhouse — and the books are free. Dilber’s neighbors can stop by her Little Free Library to take or drop off books; there’s no need for a library card.

Some of the offerings at Dilber’s micro-library are literary gems. For instance, someone left a highly coveted book from the “Harry Potter” series, and it was quickly snatched up.

“I’ve seen people stopping by on several occasions and also had people ask me about it in the neighborhood,” Dilber says. “I check the books every now and then and always find something new in there, so it’s clear that people are using it.”

Little Free Library

Members of the Cabrio family huddle around their LawnStarter-built Little Free Library.
Photo: Michael Berliner

Hundreds of Little Free Libraries in Austin

Austin-based LawnStarter has aligned with the Little Free Library organization to establish 100 Little Free Library locations this year and 500 more by the end of next spring, says Michael Berliner, a member of LawnStarter’s Growth Team and leader of LawnStarter’s Little Free Library initiative.

So far, LawnStarter has built and installed a couple of Little Free Libraries in Austin — the one at Dilber’s house and the other at the home of Monica Cabrito, her husband and their four kids.

“The LawnStarter Little Free Libraries program is the perfect way to facilitate the sharing of ideas and stories,” Berliner says. “We believe there is so much more we can do with Austin’s neighborhoods to encourage learning, develop our shared spaces and foster great memories.”

Cabrito says the response to her family’s Little Free Library in Austin’s Cherrywood neighborhood has been “beyond amazing.” The presence of the Cherrywood Coffeehouse just half a block from her home has contributed to books being swapped “all day long,” she says.

Little Free Library Australia

Three girls check out a Little Free Library in Australia.
Photo: Little Free Library

Spreading the Word(s) Worldwide

The two LawnStarter-built Little Free Library book exchanges are among the 10,000 that the Little Free Library organization aims to establish across Texas and the 100,000 that it aims to establish worldwide.

About 600 Little Free Libraries are up and running in the Lone Star State. In March, real estate developer Robert J. Hoffman, who grew up in El Paso, TX, donated 1,000 Little Free Libraries for the entire state of Texas. More than 40,000 Little Free Libraries are located in all 50 states and over 70 countries.

Todd H. Bol created the Little Free Library concept in 2009 with one micro-library at his home in Hudson, WI, in honor of his mother. The following year, Bol gave away 30 Little Free Libraries. Now, Bol serves as executive director of Little Free Library, which became a nonprofit organization in 2012.

About 60 percent of Little Free Library book exchanges have been built by so-called “stewards” — like LawnStarter — and about 40 percent have been built and sold by Little Free Library.

Each Little Free Library essentially is a small cabinet atop a sturdy post or secure foundation; the Little Free Library organization has no rules about how you design or decorate your own micro-library.

Little Free Library

This Little Free Library stands in front of the Austin home of Bonnie Dilber.
Photo: Michael Berliner

How Can You Get Involved?

So, what does it take to participate in LawnStarter’s Little Free Library program? Berliner says we look for three things in picking a good Little Free Library spot in the Austin area:

  1. A homeowner must agree to be a good “steward” of a micro-library and must believe in Little Free Library’s mission.
  2. The location must be easily accessible and ideally should have lots of neighborhood foot traffic.
  3. The location shouldn’t be competing with other Little Free Libraries that are close by.

If you’d like to host a Little Free Library in your Austin neighborhood, sign up at bit.ly/AustinLittleLibraries.

Bonnie Dilber is happy that she became a Little Free Library host.

“I like that Little Free Library makes ‘real’ books accessible to people and allows people to share the books they love with others in their community,” Dilber says. “It’s a great way to build connections — you get to see what your neighbors are interested in and connect with them in a really meaningful way.”

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