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.

We had no idea how many books would be needed for this first little free library.  Now we know that we’ll need approximately 150 books for each little free library when it is launched.  We’ve begun to talk about what processes will need to be in place to ensure that books are on hand for each little library.  Thankfully, we are blessed with a growing number of people and organizations who are donating used and new books. Some people are even promising to donate more as new little free libraries are launched.

Still, handing 150 books for each little free library is something we need to get our heads around.  That is several boxes of books that must be found, solicited or purchased.  The books then need to be sorted, so that a variety of books go into the little library.  We’re putting bookplates and a bookmark in each book, and that takes time, too.  Finally, someone has to fill the little free library and refill it when needed.  Therefore, each little free library has a caretaker from the community who will watch over it.  (This also means that the caretaker needs room in her home for 1-2 boxes of books!)

Of course, the launch of a little free library requires more than just books.  It requires engaging the community, finding a caretaker, building the structure, and installing it.  The good news is that we see these structures as a way of connecting a reader with a book, and that simple goal keeps us inspired.

This site contains information about making donations, as well as contact information for the project leaders. We’d love to hear from you!

Follow Jill Hurst-Wahl on twitter at @jill_hw

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2 Responses to Every Reader His [or Her] Book

  1. Jbug says:


    Can you please share how you kept/keep track of how many books were borrowed? I am in the process of building my little library and I’m curious.


    • Loranne says:

      That’s wonderful that you’re beginning your own Little Library! Unfortunately, we currently do not have a formal method of tracking our books. Since there is no system of checking out books, other than visiting a Little Library and taking a book with you when you leave, it’s hard to gather that information. Anecdotally, however, the stewards of each location do make a mental note of which books/types of books fly off the shelves, which is part of how I created our collection development policy (which you can read here, if you’re interested).

      I’d be interested to hear if you end up devising a system for keeping track of this kind of information!

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