Roadside Attractions: Little Free Libraries

10 Oct

When you travel down a street at 10 mph in the open air instead of boxed inside a car moving 30 mph, you’re bound to notice more. Last week I was rolling through Palo Alto’s Professorville neighborhood on my way to meet a girlfriend for dinner downtown, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something jutting above a picket fence. Mounted on a post with a steep A-line roof, it was too large to be a mailbox.

I pulled over to investigate. The sign said “Little Free Library.” Inside was a small collection of books protected behind a glass door and instructions that simply said to take a book and return it when you’re done.

Palo Alto Little Free Library

Little did I know that know that Little Free Libraries are found worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. The first little free library was built in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher who loved reading. He placed on a post in his front yard with a sign “Free Books.”

It was so popular he built more and gave them away for other locations. The concept took off. In three years they met their initial goal of 2500 Little Free Libraries and by January 2014, they expect to pass 10,000.

San Jose Little Free Library

I checked their map for ones near me and found two that weren’t far out of the way of my daily commute: one in front of an Victorian in downtown San Jose and one in front of a suburban ranch-style home in Mountain View.

Mountain View

Now I want one. Given I live in a managed neighborhood, I don’t know where I can put it and be in compliance with the association rules. But I have a father who’s really handy in the woodworking shop and is always looking for new projects. And what design? Would I go with a red British phone booth? A Scandinavian cottage? Or maybe a Cajun shack made of reclaimed materials like my cousin’s chicken coop?

Would you like a Little Free Library in your yard? What style would you choose? What kinds of books? Is there a Little Free Library in your neighborhood?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Around Town, Family Rides


Tags: ,

8 responses to “Roadside Attractions: Little Free Libraries

  1. gasstationwithoutpumps

    October 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    There is a nice one at the corner of Bay and King in Santa Cruz. My house on a quiet side street is not a good location for one, so my wife and I donate books at the one at Bay and King instead.

    • ladyfleur

      October 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Does the one by your house have a theme?

      • gasstationwithoutpumps

        October 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm

        The one I mentioned is a few block away from my house. I don’t think it has a theme, either in terms of books or architecture: it is just a box on a stick with an eclectic mix of books.

  2. RoZa

    October 11, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I want a Tardis.

    • ladyfleur

      October 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      You could get the kit for the red phone booth and paint it blue.

  3. pep

    October 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Great story – I didn’t know about Little Free Libraries. This must be what I spotted last week on The Dalles Avenue in Sunnyvale, at St. Luke Lutheran Church. It’s not on the map – I bet it’s new, or I would have noticed it before. Thanks for inspiring me to drop off a book on my next bicycle commute!

    • ladyfleur

      October 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      The one I saw in Palo Alto isn’t on the map either. Maybe not everyone wants to be put on the map.

      Now I have to go check out the ones on The Dalles.

  4. Annie L

    September 29, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    Good blogg post


Leave a Reply to pep Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Ancestral Pathways LLC

This site features a genealogy blog about the Ville Platte Louisiana area African descendant families of Frank, Jason, Denton, Ruben, Leday, Laughtin, Joseph

Jubilo! The Emancipation Century

African Americans in the 19th Century: Slavery, Resistance, Abolition, the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and the Nadir

Grits & Gumbo

Southern family stories with a dash of spice

Granola Shotgun

Stories About Urbanism, Adaptation, and Resilience


Feminist reflections on fitness, sport, and health

madeonmyfingers and design

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The Independent Bike Blog

A blog for bike shops


A fine site


Living the urban/bicycle life

South Bay Streetscape

Exploring Santa Clara County's urban limits

I'm Jame :)

what's on my mind: food, fashion, marketing, cities, tech & more

Let's Go Ride a Bike

Adventures in city cycling

The Backpack Objective

Exploring with kids in the outdoors and in homeschool

Shop by Bike

How and where to shop by bike in Silicon Valley, California

The Empowerment of the Silent Sisterhood

The blog of the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation

%d bloggers like this: