Little Free Library and Community Outreach

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Many communities are now offering Little Free Libraries. The basic idea is simple: take a book to read. Keep it or return it. Patrons may donate their used books directly to the Free Little Library.

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Our community is fortunate to have several Free Little Libraries. I found it interesting to learn about how these Little Free Libraries were set up and how they are maintained. When I realized that this process begins in the Reference Department of the Fulton County Public Library (FCPL)  right behind Grant Station, I just had to do some investigating.

Once again Ricki Raccoon helped me to discover the following information:

The Sentinel, our local newspaper, donated several old newspaper vending machines which turned out to be the perfect size for use as a Free Little Library.  These old machines also have the advantage of being water proof which is important in a community with cold, wet winters. One such Little Free Library sits outside of the Fulton County Public Library in Rochester (the first picture) and is available even when the library is closed. A precautionary measure of sealing any holes to prevent bug infestation has been taken. Two others are located in Talma and Grass Creek. Both areas are unserved by a library. This is one way that the FCPL reaches out to unserved neighbors.

In addition to books directly donated into the Free Little Library, The Fulton County Public Library also makes periodic checks of the Free Little Libraries and replenishes books from time to time. I was curious about how books are chosen for each library.

Behind Grant Station in the Reference Department is a bookshelf that is a work in progress.

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All of the books and magazines that land on this bookshelf have either been withdrawn from FCPL (which makes room for new ones) or they have been donated by public library patrons but are not needed in the library collection (for example if we received multiple copies of a book). These books and magazines actually end up in various locations. The items shown here are destined for area nursing homes, the jail, the honor book collection, or the Free Little Libraries. Of those destined for the Free Little Libraries, it is interesting to note that the location and populations vary. FCPL attempts to target specific books for specific populations. For example areas with more children are left with more children’s books. In some areas there is a high population of Amish patrons who use the Free Little Libraries, so books at those locations tend to reflect the types of books that Amish patrons might choose.

As part of the FCPL community outreach programs the books that do not go into the Free Little Libraries are also targeted to certain populations. There are some special considerations for placement. Nursing homes generally prefer larger print books. Books destined for the jail must meet certain criteria. Our local jail requires paperback books that contain nongraphic material and don’t promote violence. As a result the types of books taken to the jail tend to be paper back, nonfiction, self help type books. Some magazines are acceptable to the jail, but inserts with sharp edges must be removed first. All staples in the magazines must also be removed before donation. When the jail books are dropped off, they have to be approved by jail staff before the inmates are permitted to read them.

The remaining books go to the FCPL Honor Book collection. These books are actually labeld “Honor Book” and are placed in either the Pontiac Entrance foyer or the Fulton Entrance foyer. Most of these books tend to be paperbacks, but there are some exceptions. Honor Books are books that aren’t barcoded and don’t have to be checked out on the patron’s library card. Patrons are requested to let the Adult Circulation desk know how many Honor Books they have chosen. The books are then recorded as “In House Circulation” items. Patrons are on the honor system to return these books.

The Pontiac Entrance Foyer has books in black cases with doors that pull out sideways.

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Slightly larger books do no fit well into these cases, so there is a box for them on the floor.

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Honor books in the Fulton Entrance Foyer are displayed on spinners.

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The community response to the Free Little Libraries and community outreach is overwhelmingly positive and popular.


20 thoughts on “Little Free Library and Community Outreach

  1. I was so excited to read this post. I live in a suburb of Philadelphia and we’ve gotten several LFL’s in my area in the last couple of years. I have written about them on my blog – in this post I mentioned a new one and listed posts on the others, if you are interested.

    I also enjoyed reading about the Honor system books. We don’t have that here but I’ve seen them in other local systems.

    Thanks for writing about this topic. I love reading and I love libraries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments and I am pleased to know you were excited to read this post.

      I will definitely check out your link!

      In addition to honor books, we also have honor magazines, and now honor movies. This seems to be a very popular service!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s interesting. I’m wondering why, maybe the informality of it? I know that some people are intimidated by the library and getting a card. What a good way to reach out.

        I think people are hungry for books, etc. but don’t always know it. This makes it easy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m sure there are many varied reasons for the popularity of this service. However, I think one of them may be that we are a lake town. Many people only “live” here during part of the year. They may be out of district for our library, but our honor system allows them to access some of our materials. Of course they are also welcome to come into the library and read as well!


  2. In the UK we have a similar trend re-using the defunct old red telephone boxes as libraries, A search for libraries in red telephone boxes will bring up several examples if you are interested. The community radio station for which I present shows also has a similar service in its community cafe and there are even village pubs offering community “little libraries” It all helps.


  3. These are great ideas. Stemming from a sad occurrence, one of our fraternity brothers in college overdosed at a festival and died. It ripped everyone’s world apart. As a way to remember and honor the real him, we started, supported and named a free community library after him. It is a nice lining to what had happened.

    Liked by 1 person

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