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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You are invited! SYR-LFL launch party, Feb 3

Please join us!

This Friday evening from 5:30-7:30pm, we will be celebrating the launch of the first Syracuse Little Free Library.

The party is open to the public and will be held at 331 Gifford Street, just a few doors down from the location of the first SYR-LFL.

Light refreshments will be served and Design and Library students will be on hand to talk about the project.

Get involved:
If you are interested in contributing to the SYR-LFL project, learn more here:

Contact Jaime Snyder,

Location of the first LFL in Syracuse, 323 Gifford Street

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Contribute to the Gifford Street LFL book drive

We are currently seeking book donations for the Gifford Street LFL collection.
A customized list of titles has been compiled by Library and Information Science graduate students which reflects the interests of the community based on our discussions and workshops this fall.  If you are interested in donating a book (or a few!), please review the list of titles here. Books can be dropped off at 601 Tully on January 28th from 10am-12noon.

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LFL on Gifford: Location selected for first Little Free Library

In Fall 2011, the Little Free Libraries Project launched as a collaboration between residents of the near Westside of Syracuse, the  iSchool, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and the Office of Community Engagement and Economic Development. Since then, our team has grown and the vision for what a Little Free Library can be in Syracuse has evolved.

Site Specific Design

At the end of November, we shared our prototype for the first micro-library. Constructed from a reclaimed phone kiosk, this structure makes a visual and functional comparison between the public telephone and the Little Free Library (LFL), both points of congregation and exchange of information.

Prototype for the LFL created by VPA design instructor Zeke Leonard and his students.

During the design process, Zeke Leonard and his VPA students visited many of the spots that had been discussed in the initial meeting. This was how the idea of using abandoned phone kiosks evolved. As the students observed and interacted with community members, they envisioned a new life for these obsolete structures. With the prevalence of cell phones, most of these kiosks are being removed by phone companies. Some have remained in the near Westside, and will make great homes for the LFL. The phone kiosks can be retrofitted to hold two dozen books, they will be weatherproof, have a Plexiglas door, and a light inside so that books are visible any time of the day.

Location, Location, Location

Our next task was to identify a specific location for the first LFL. As Maarten Jacobs, Director of the Near Westside Initiative, wrote in a recent NWS newsletter:

The near Westside of Syracuse is blessed to have a public library at the edge of its community. The Mundy Library, located on Geddes Street, has done a wonderful job serving hundreds of families each year. Unfortunately, not everyone takes advantage of the library, and many in the neighborhood feel it is too far to walk to. So what access to books do they then have? Sadly, very little… The project goal is not intended to take the place of the full range of resources and services available in our public libraries; rather the intent is to promote literacy and conversation in the community. The libraries’ theme is to “take a book and leave a book”, encouraging books to cycle throughout the neighborhood.

We started brainstorming about possible locations at our very first workshop in October. Community members expressed not only a desire to have multiple LFLs positioned throughout the near Westside, but expressed a strongly optimistic belief that the book repositories would be well-tended and appreciated by a range of people: kids, adults, avid readers and beginners. A specific request was made for books in English and in Spanish, at a range of reading levels.

Maarten Jacobs leading a discussion about possible locations for LFL in the Near Westside of Syracuse.

Criteria for a prime location includes regular foot traffic, a committed community steward to look out for the structure and contents of the LFL, opportunity to champion a local library, and a population of people of all ages and reading abilities interested in sharing books. Zeke and his design students included a selection of three possible locations in their presentation of the kiosk prototype, explaining that the location of existing phone kiosks could drive the positioning of our first set of LFLs.

Drawing on his extensive connections within the community, Maarten Jacobs negotiated an agreement with the owner of a green building on Gifford Street, next to DiMaria’s Convenience Store and just down the street from Nojaim’s market.

Location for the first SYR-LFL, to be launched in early February 2012.

Not only is there an existing phone kiosk at this location, but the owner of the building has agreed to reconnect electricity to it when the LFL is installed, enabling the structure to have the internal lighting that was a key aspect of the original design. The location is also next to a heavily used and bus stop. And best of all, our community steward, Mother Earth (center, photo below), can see the structure from her kitchen window, ensuring that this first Little Free Library will be looked after.

Mother Earth (center) participating in an SYR-LFL workshop on October 15, 2011.

Get Involved!

Next steps for our team will involve gathering books based on a list of titles developed by the LIS students involved in the project. Be on the look out for an announcement soon about how YOU can get involved in the Syracuse Little Free Library Project by donating books.

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Syracuse Little Free Libraries Prototype Unveiled

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the official blog of the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, on November 21, 2011. By Jaime Snyder.


In the beginning of November, the Syracuse Little Free Libraries (SYR-LFL) team gathered to check out a prototype created by VPA Interior Design faculty Zeke Leonard and his team of design students. Our meeting was hosted by our friends at La Casita Cultural Center, hopefully a future home of a spanish language little free library.

As you may know from reading earlier posts about this project (Syracuse Little Free Libraries Project Launches and The Little Free Libraries Project Comes to Syracuse ), SYR-LFL is a collaborative project between the iSchool, the College of Visual and Performance Arts (VPA) and residents of Syracuse’s Near Westside (NWS) through SU’s Office of Community Engagement and Economic Development (CEED). The idea is simple: we’ll be constructing and installing a series of small structures in the NWS community that house a continually evolving collection of free books. The location and contents of each Little Free Library will be determined by community members who are engaged with the project, guided by our design and library students. The motto of the project was coined by the founders of the Little Free Libraries movement Rick Brooks and Todd Bols: Take a book, return a book.

Designing a Little Free Library Look for Syracuse

While many of the Little Free Libraries created so far  take the shape and form of small wooden houses, Zeke’s team (Michele Palotta, Katie Malatesta, Jian Zhong, Meghan Adams, Danielle Dickerman, Kate Kirson) came up with a design for the Syracuse LFLs that is uniquely suited to the Near West Side neighborhood. The design team toured the neighborhood and observed a number of abandoned phone kiosks. The structures were already partially weatherproofed, have high visibility as public property, are often already designed with accessibility in mind, and are being phased out with existing mobile technology.

Repurposing Old Technology

In their design brief (PDF) the design team explained, “Traditionally payphones have been a major point of dialogue and now we are adapting them into another form of exchange. Books are the tangible form of a conversation or story, something that parallels the phone kiosk’s initial purpose… ”

As can be seen in the photographs here, the prototype uses an actual phone kioske structure (available at  Modifications have been made so that the enclosure can accommodate a variety of book sizes. A molded steel cuff has been added that frames the existing shape and serves as an attachment point for a plexiglas door, etched with the motto, “Take a book, return a book.” The closure will be constructed similarly to a refrigerator door, with weatherproofing and a magnetic latch.

Most of these existing structures are already hardwired, allowing for an interior light to illuminate the contents of the LFL, serving as a beacon for locating the structures in the neighborhood. The designers also saw potential for community involvement by asking community members to decorate the exterior of the phone kiosks, explaining, “We imagine some of these to be adorned with mosaics or work by local artists. This supports community pride and ensures that they will be well kept.”

Getting Feedback from the Commmunity

Community feedback on this prototype was decidedly positive and we are looking forward to installing the first Syracuse Little Free Library sometime in late January. Keep an eye out for updates about the location and collection development. We are also working on the SYR-LFL website!

What do you think of the Syracuse Little Free Library prototype? Post your comments here or email me at

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The Little Free Libraries Project Comes to Syracuse

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the official blog of the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, on October 20, 2011. By Topher Lawton.


I arrived at the Warehouse this weekend not knowing quite what to expect; I was looking forward to a day of conversation and preparing to create Little Free Libraries in Syracuse’s Near West Side. My head is still buzzing with ideas, hopes and designs for the project. The Syracuse Little Free Library Project is a collaboration between the School of Information Studies, the College of Visual & Performing Arts, and the Near West Side Initiative. As part of the interdisciplinary team on the project, I’m excited to be working with people outside of the iSchool, and those inside it too!

9:45 am: Arrive bright-eyed & bushy-tailed (get coffee), meet the other participants as they’re coming in (drink coffee, get more) and get settled in (with coffee).

10:00 am: Greeted by the facilitators (Jaime Snyder, Zeke Leonard, Maarten Jacobs and Jill Hurst-Wahl), we get right to work. After a quick introduction to the concepts behind the Little Free Library Project, and the Syracuse incarnation in particular, we break into smaller groups and start discussions. It’s important to note that every one of the groups included community members, design students from VPA, and iSchool students as well–we kept changing groups around throughout the day. Every facet of the project was represented in every group, every time, throughout the day. The collaboration between members of such different backgrounds was great to see and take part in! We problem-solved as one unit, and could often make up for weaknesses in ways that single discipline teams couldn’t have managed.

Our first topic of conversation was books–classic library material, right? Interestingly, we didn’t start trying to organize them or figure out what books to recommend, but instead the conversations focused on ways that books had affected us. Many of us brought examples of “desert island” books (ones we’d never want to be marooned without) and those helped to spark memories of other books we’d all loved. In my section, people spoke again and again about old favorites or even books to “fight with” because of characters or situations that challenged our perspective.

Free Little Libraries – Syracuse, NY from Kyle Kuchta on Vimeo.

12:00 pm: Lunch and more brainstorming! This time, the topic was location; we discussed spaces that would make perfect homes for these potential Little Free Libraries. I was surprised to see how similar the “perfect locations” tended to be. Most people agreed that they should be placed in highly-visible locations with plenty of traffic, areas to sit and read, and where you could join neighbors and friends in sharing the books you love. We still have some questions to answer, but we’ve found plenty of common ground for now.

1:00 pm: At this point, we split into small groups and started to work on the next step: the design process! Our interdisciplinary teams came up with some fantastic ideas, and once again we discovered that we had more in common than we thought. We considered colors, materials, shapes, sizes, dimensions, and talked some more about what these Little Libraries might hold (Books? Magazines? Games?). The design team from VPA had plenty of supplies on hand, and each group was able to create a map of their ideas and designs for possible prototypes.

2:30 pm: We reconvened as a large group for the last time to reflect on the day’s work and talk about the next steps. Librarians are armed and ready to consider the collections to “seed” these libraries, designers have the prototypes to make, and residents are hard at work deciding where these libraries should be hosted. The day was deemed a great success, and we left excited for more!

We’ll be meeting together once all of the “homework” is done, so check back to Information Space for more updates on the Syracuse Little Free Library Project.

Do you have any ideas to share about Little Free Libraries? Let us know in the comments!

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Syracuse Little Free Libraries Project Launches

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the official blog of the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, on October 14, 2011. By Jaime Snyder.

Rick and Tim's first Little Free Library

The Little Free Libraries Project is a collaborative project between Syracuse University’s iSchool, the College of Visual and Performance Arts (VPA) and residents of Syracuse’s Near Westside (NWS). This project grew out of a late summer tweet from Jill Hurst-Wahl, incoming Director of the Library and Information Science graduate program at the iSchool. She posted a link about Little Free Libraries being built in Wisconsin and wondered if we could do the same here in Syracuse.

The idea quickly sparked our imagination and this project was formed. Building on relationships cultivated through Common Ground, an initiative to create collaborative relationships between the iSchool and VPA, the Syracuse Little Free Library Project (SYR-LFL) will bring together librarians, designers, community outreach representatives from the university, and members of the Syracuse community.

What are Little Free Libraries?

Just a short time ago, Richard Brooks and Todd Bol launched the Little Free Libraries project in Wisconsin. With the help of local volunteers and small businesses, Rick and Todd have created and installed dozens of small, customized structures throughout their communities. These tiny buildings house community-based lending libraries, collections of books on specific themes available to any member of the community to borrow. Over time they have explored a range of formats and themes for these community based book repositories, striving to make sure that every Little Free LIbrary is a point of open exchange inviting residents to ”Take a book, return a book.”

We contacted Rick and Todd and were delighted that they enthusiastically encouraged the extension of their project in Syracuse.  The project also has the strong support of iSchool Dean Elizabeth Liddy and the Vice President of Community Engagement and Economic Development at SU, Marilyn Higgins. While we believe that Little Free Libraries can not take the place of the full range of resources and services available in our public libraries, we see enormous potential in their ability to promote literacy and conversation in our community.

Little Free Library at the Tower Rock School

Participate in the Project

The SYR-LFL project is launching this weekend with a day-long free workshop bringing together a select group of librarians, designers and members of the Syracuse community. There will be approximately 20 participants, including students and faculty from the iSchool and VPA, representatives from SU Community Engagement and residents of the NWS. Library and information science students will focus on issues related to community collection development and establishing connections between these structures and local public libraries. Design students will be planning and leading construction of compelling, weather-proofed structures based on themes identified by NWS residents.  By the end of the workshop we hope to have 1) identified approximately 5 tentative locations for LFL on the Near Westside of Syracuse, 2) community-based themes for the LIS students to develop “starter” book collections for each little library, and 3) a list of design requirements for the VPA students to use when designing the structures.

We’ll be posting updates on this project as it evolves. Where would you like to see a Little Free Library pop up in your community?

A passionate lover of Little Free Libraries in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

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