Little Free Libraries in Onondaga County (NY)

The number of Little Free Libraries in Onondaga County continues to grow. The map below from the Little Free Library web site shows many of them. However, many have not been formally registered and are not listed on the site.  If you have an LFL – even if it is not in Onondaga County – please consider adding yours to the map, so others know that it exists.  There is no cost in doing so.

You can click on the map in order to enlarge it.  You can also run your own search on the LFL web site.

Map of LFL in Onondaga County

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Changes to the Little Free Libraries on the Near Westside

If you drive or walk around Syracuse’s Near Westside, then you have already noticed a change.  The Little Free Library on the outside of 601 Tully has been removed and is going to be mounted at 208 Slocum Avenue, where another community partner is going to be its steward.

The Peacemaking Center, which is moving into 601 Tully, will have a version of a Little Free Library inside their building, so people will still be able to access books there.


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The Illinois Library Association Reporter articles on little free libraries

Rick Bol and Jill Hurst-Wahl outside of 601 Tully.

Rick Brooks and Jill Hurst-Wahl outside of 601 Tully.

The June 2014 issue of The Illinois Library Association Reporter contains several articles on little free libraries, and includes information on the ones on Syracuse’s Near Westside.  Lauren Collen, the librarian at the Machesney Elementary School, did an excellent job gathering information on the variety of little free libraries that exist and talking about their impact.  One of the projects that truly excited her is the one in Minneapolis, MN, where they have envisioned have a little free library on every block.  You can read the full article that talks about Minneapolis, Syracuse, El Paso and Cleveland here.

In her option piece (“My Turn”), Collen wonders if ‘we could have ‘literacy friendly neighborhood’ programs that help grow readers.”  Clearly Todd Bol and Rick Brooks believe that the answer is “yes”.  Now the question is how can we all create more LFLs and other environments to help this become a reality?

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Buying books for the LFLs

Hi everyone! Loranne here, and I’m about to wrap up my work with the Little Free Libraries. One of the last phases of my internship was to test and put into action the Collection Development Policy I wrote for the project.

I tried my hardest to pretend I was encountering the Collection Devleopment Policy for the first time, to imagine what it would be like for someone who had not spent hours sifting through donated materials to try to decide what to buy.

It should be noted that, unfortunately, we will not be purchasing these titles. At the time I wrote this plan, we had already used all donated funds. So, I set myself an imaginary budget of $500, and got to work. I consulted the resources listed in my policy (best seller lists and book review sites, as well as a few publishing companies), in order to best determine what I should buy.

Here, you can see a list of the books I determine we should purchase, as well as the author, year of publication, format, category, and price (both the original list price and current price on

Popular Reading titles (into which the Box Office category falls) are exactly that—very popular! They tend to fly of LFL shelves. And so do children’s books, which is why I devoted about 30% of my total budget to those categories.

Because books for adult learners are hard to come by in donations, in addition to being in demand, I also set aside 25% of my budget for those titles.

Future buyers for the LFLs might want to consider making a list like my table above, and shopping around a bit, before going straight to Amazon. Area used bookstores are likely to have a copy or two of current, popular titles, and will allow you to save money!

Aside from this document, there are a couple of drafts that you won’t get to see here, but I’ll tell you a few very important things I learned from writing them

  • Plan ahead. I’m really glad I divided up my budget according to category. That made it easier for me to not focus solely on one or two.
  • Consider whether the price is worth it. I could have gotten one big The Walking Dead compendium for the same price as the three listed here, but by splitting them up, I ensured that more people would benefit from the money spent, because three people could enjoy them at once, rather than one.
  • Mix it up. Particularly in the more popular categories (Popular Reading and Children’s), don’t just get everything from the very top of the best seller list—classics that are always popular (like The Giving Tree or The Hobbit) have their place, too.
  • Don’t spend lots of money on computer instructional books. My first draft included a Microsoft Office introductory book, which cost over $100. But MS Office 2010 isn’t going to be around forever—technology changes quickly. By instead selecting a more basic MS Word and MS Excel book, I’ve saved money for other books, while still getting the utility out of these instructional books.




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Summertime wrap-up

Loranne–resident intern–here! Some of you might have already noticed that I’ve been making a lot of changes to the website lately. I’ve reorganized our existing information, and added quite a bit of new content of my own. This is all part of the culmination of my efforts this summer, which have been–as Jill mentioned in her last update–with an eye toward making the Syracuse Little Free Libraries more self-sustaining, and requiring less human intervention. To that end, the blog will likely be updated less frequently, but the website will contain more information necessary to keep the project going.

So, what’s new on the website?

With the help of Jill and Maarten Jacobs, I have created a Collection Development Policy designed to guide LFL caretakers and donators alike in determining what books should be added to our collections. This document is a product of my work this summer, and is not intended to last, as is, forever, but rather to be edited and adapted over time and as the community served by the LFLs grows and changes. In the policy, you can read about the principles held by the Little Free Libraries, as well as the genres of books we intend to collect. You can read the long version of that policy in PDF form here.

I also made a corresponding donation chart. It contains a shorter version of the breakdown of genres put forth in the Collection Development Policy, and can have many uses. It can be printed as a handout for individuals who would like to donate books, or used as part of a flier for organizations hosting book drives to benefit the LFLs.  If you’d like to read the chart (or the short version), you can do so here.

We now have an all-new FAQ section, as well, and our contact information has been updated to reflect organizational changes.

What else is new?

During the course of my internship (and through our first book drive earlier this spring), it became clear that we weren’t really set up to handle a continual influx of large quantities of books. So rather than processing donations on an ongoing basis, we’ve determined that there will be a book drive every spring, supplemented by using monetary donations to purchase more books in the fall. Since the iSchool is maintaining the account for monetary donations, they will handle this purchasing phase, with input from the LFL caretakers. We will continue to accept monetary donations at any time.

What if I want to donate books before the spring book drive?

No problem! If you have a small number of books you’d like to donate, we encourage you to go ahead and choose one of our locations, and put them in the Little Free Library of your choice directly.

If you have a larger number of books you’d like to donate, but don’t want to hang onto them until the spring, feel free to contact Maarten Jacobs ( with the Near Westside Initiative. He will be happy to help you get your books to the LFLs.

Please see our new and improved donation chart for a breakdown of the types of books we’d like to receive.

A new look

As mentioned in Jill’s post, I’ve been working on a stamp design to replace the book plates you may have gotten used to seeing. In the last week, I have also processed another 2,000 books (1,913, to be exact) while testing out my stamp design. The results were great (as you can see on the left)! The book plates/stickers were excellent for starting out, but ultimately very time consuming when it came time to work through the hundreds of books we received through our book drive this spring. With the new self-inking stamp in hand, my average speed was about 250 books per hour! The stamp isn’t perfect–I ran into some trouble when working with children’s books, which tend to have pictures everywhere, so there’s no good place to stamp in the first place, and also have waxy or plastic pages (see example at right). However, many of the children’s books were already left unmarked, as the book plates were to large for them.

In case you’re interested in making stamps of your own, I heartily recommend the nice folks at Central Marking. They’re located right here in town, and were very helpful and communicative when I had questions or problems with my stamp design.

At the end of it all, here’s an idea of all the books I got through this summer, with the help of some of my colleagues:
Those boxes are piled about four across, three deep, and five high, on average. That’s approximately 60 boxes of books!



Moving forward

As of right now, we’re going to wait a little while to see how the current Little Free Libraries take root in their communities before deciding whether or not to install more in the Near Westside area. However, that doesn’t mean that others can’t build LFLs of their own around Syracuse and add them to our existing network! If that’s something you’re interested in doing, I suggest you check out our FAQ page.

This October, I will be putting my own plans to the test, and doing our first round of fall purchasing. I’ll be sure to write again during that time, so you all can hear about how that works out.

I am reluctant to say goodbye to my internship with the Little Free Libraries. It’s been a fascinating, humbling project that has taught me much, and I’m sad to see it go. However, I’m confident I’m leaving it in capable hands, and I look forward to watching it grow from a different perspective.

Before I sign off, I must take a moment to thank all of you–all our partners and friends and team members, who laid the groundwork and got this project on its feet in the first place. Thanks for being so patient, and answering all of my nitpicking questions! I also want to thank Jill Hurst-Wahl and Maarten Jacobs in particular. They have been instrumental in helping me think through my ideas, pushing me to keep going, especially through the difficult bits. I could not have accomplished any of this without you.

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What have the Syracuse Little Free Libraries been up to this summer?

Donnie & her husband in front of a truck full of books donated by the Cicero UMCAn update from Professor Jill Hurst-Wahl

In the spring, several book drives were held in order to have more books available for the Little Free Libraries on the Near Westside. The largest book drive was held at Syracuse University, although books were donated by people from the larger community. In all, nearly 2000 books were donated, including books for toddlers, older children and adults. An article was written about that book drive which notes that the book drive was part of an effort to make the Little Free Libraries more sustainable.

One of the local elementary schools held its own book drive and collected several hundred books that are appropriate for children their own age. What a joy to hear of chidren donating books for other children! The third book drive was held by the Cicero United Methodist Church, whch collected approximately 700 books. Books from all three book drives are being split between the three Little Free Library locations at 323 Gifford St., 601 Tully St. and 300 Otisco St., and should keep them filled with books through the winter.

Thanks to everyone who donated a book! A big thank you to members of the Cicero United Methodist Church, who collected, sorted and put bookplates in them (until they ran out of bookplates!). We appreciate your efforts!

What did we learn from the book drives?

First, we learned that people are very willing to donate used and new books, when they know that the books are going to a good cause. And, yes, some people did purchase new books for the Little Free Libraries. What a joy to know that someone took their time and money to select a book that will be read by a person they will never meet.

Second, we heard from community residents and other people who have a Syracuse connection who wanted to donate money to the Little Free Libraries. The iSchool at Syracuse University created a way for people to donate money through its web site and earmark that donation for the Little Free Libraries. These cash donations will be used to purchase new and used books for each Little Free Library. The iSchool will work with the community caretakers of the Little Free Libraries to select the books that are to purchased. While purchasing books will be helpful, we know that a book drive will need to be done in spring 2013 in order to have a good influx of books. We know that we learned valuable lessons from the books drive this spring, so that we might be even more organized next year.

Third, we learned that “processing” book donations is time consuming. Processing means sorting through them, putting in LFL bookplates and bookmarks, and then boxing them so they can easily be delivered to one of the LFLs. It doesn’t sound time consuming, but anyone who has sat with several hundred books can tell you that it is. Which brings me to…

So what is next?

This summer, Loranne Nasir has taken on the mission to make the Little Free Libraries more sustainable. while not requiring a team of people to oversee them. She is looking at our processes and putting in place new procedures. Most of her efforts would be boring to you, but are important to us. One that many people will see is that we hope to replace the bookplates with a stamp. The design is not yet finalized, but we already know that using a stamp will save time. (You can see a draft version above.) And while members of the Near Westside community may not know Loranne, each one who takes a book out of a Little Free Library in the coming months will be touched by her work.

By the way, you may wonder why we take the time to put information into each book that associates it with the Little Free Libraries. We see that information as essential to educating people about the Little Free Libraries. We know that books will go into the LFLs without that information. We also know that eventually all books will go into the LFLS without that information, but for now we see it as being important since many members are still learning about these structures.

Each week brings new things for Loranne to consider. For example, this week we received an email message from an author, who wants to do a program at one of the Little Free Libraries. While we’re not setup to handle something like that, we had to discuss who in the community might be. Is there someone or some organization that would be interested in hosting events that are somehow related to the Little Free Libraries? We don’t know the answer to that… yet… so stay tuned.

A year ago

It has been nearly a year since the idea of having a Little Free Library in Syracuse surfaced. Some might look and think that we haven’t done a lot. I mean…we have only imstalled three of them. But look at what went into those three. We had teams of students from the SU School of Information Studies and the College of Visual and Performing Arts get involved with members of the Near Westside community to design the LFLs and make initial decisions about the types of books we wanted them to house. We held a book drive that collected many more books than expected. We grabbed media attention, both in the Syracuse region and nationally. We built partnerships with other organizations in the region. And we distributed hundreds – HUNDREDS – of books to community members. That was our goal…to get books in the hands of people who wanted books to read. Each book that makes into the hand of someone on the Near Westside is a success for the project… and is a reminder of why we started this project and why we hope it will continue.

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LFL Book Drive, National Library Week April 8-14

It seems like whenever we start talking about the Syracuse Little Free Libraries project, someone remarks, “Oh, my gosh, I have a stack of books at home, I should donate them!” Here’s your chance!

In honor of National Library Week, April 8-14, we will be launching two new Little Free Libraries on the Near Westside of Syracuse. This means we need a fresh supply of books. So, the SYR-LFL will be running a Library Week Book Drive to ensure that we have plenty of materials to stock our new locations.

Our goal is to collect 1000 books by the end of the week, starting now! To do that, we will need your help. Look around you house, take a trip to a second hand book store, encourage your friends, family and colleagues to donate.

If we make out goal, we’ll throw a pizza party for all our volunteers and friends of SYR-LFL. Check back here regularly to see how we are doing.

We will be accepting new and gently used books, as well as online cash contributions (see link below) .

Making a contribution

There are two ways for you to participate in the book drive:

1. Make a contribution yourself
2. Encourage your friends and neighbors to donate

If you’d like to rally your friends, neighbors or community to contribute , use this handy donation guide created by Jill Hurst-Wahl to help your group select appropriate books. You can also get suggestions on our donations page.

Cash contributions can be made through the iSchool secure online form here.  You will receive a receipt of your donation and 100% of all donations will go to purchase LFL books and materials.

Have a stack of books that you’ve been meaning to donate? Now is the time! Book donations can be dropped off at the following locations:

• School of Information Studies, 245 Hinds Hall on Main Campus
• Near Westside Initiative, 4th Floor of The Warehouse
• Petit Library, 205 Victoria Place, Westcott Neighborhood
• 601 Tully Community Center on the Near Westside

You can also have books shipped directly to us. Please use this address:

Near Westside Initiative
Attn: Little Free Libraries
The Warehouse, Suite 405
350 West Fayette Street
Syracuse, NY 13244-3050

And, just for the Library Week Book Drive, special arrangements can be made for larger donations to be picked up by one of our volunteers. If you have too many books to carry, please contact us at SyracuseLFL@gmail or by phone at 315-220-0407.

Take a book, return a book during National Libraries Week!

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Little Free Libraries Project Receives National Press Attention

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the iSchool blog.

Since we launched the Syracuse Little Free Libraries project, the national LFL movement has exploded. The idea is decidedly low tech: physical books, housed in physical repositories. The books are free and available to anyone who is interested in reading them. The system works on donations. Take a book, return a book. As you can see from the links below, we are not the only community to embrace this idea. The news piece aired on NBC Nightly News is a great place to start if you are interested in learning more about the Little Free Library Movement.

NBC Nightly News, Aired on March 10, 2012
ARTICLE: Using books to build community
VIDEO: Bright Idea

Good.Is Occupy Your Sidewalk With A Micro-Library

The Atlantic: Tiny Libraries, DIY Reading Rooms, and Other Micro Book Depots

Syracuse Post-Standard: Books move fast out of Syracuse’s first curbside library

Library Journal: Little Libraries Sprout Across the Country

DesignBoom: Repurposed phone booth library in NYC

Let’s Read Books: Little Library Tree House

Daily Orange: “Little Free Library” promotes literacy on Syracuse Westside

And a note about a project in Rochester:

“We’ve been doing something similar in Rochester for the last few years. The Blue Bookshelf Project is a collaborative effort between the Rochester Public Library and the Rochester Rotary Club. We’ve placed blue book shelves in dozens of locations throughout the city, such as barber shops, corner stores, the public market, etc. and stocked them with donated books. People take a book, leave a book, and just generally share. It has been quite successful.”

Patricia Uttaro, Director
Rochester Public Library & Monroe County Library System

Have you seen or heard about other Little Free Libraries? Let us know!


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Every Reader His [or Her] Book

An update from Jill Hurst-Wahl, member of the project team and incoming Director of the Library and Information Science Masters program at the School of Information Studies.

In 1931, a librarian wrote several rules that are evident in our first little free library:

* Books are for use.
* Every reader his [or her] book.
* Every book its reader.
* Save the time of the reader.

In its first four weeks, the first little free library on Gifford Street has seen 120+ books borrowed by readers.  Those have included books for children and adults, and some books in Spanish.  Our hope is that when someone looks in the little free library that he will see a book that is of interest, and that the person will feel comfortable taking the book to read.  I can imagine someone borrowing a book before boarding a city bus or picking up a book while walking home from the grocery store.  I also hope that people might see a book at home that they feel would be appropriate for someone else, and then tuck it into the little free library for another reader to find.

Processing books at the book drop on January 28, 2012.

Continue reading

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The first SYR-LFL is open for business!

Many thanks to everyone who helped with last nights launch party! As you can see from the photos below, it was pretty exciting to load the first batch of books into the little library located at 323 Gifford.

We will be continuing to accept donations, so check out our regularly updated wishlist.

Mother Earth giving the LFL some love.



...and after!

Mother Earth with Library Science students Darren Glenn and Erin Lee.

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