courtesy little free library

Small-scale book exchanges in towns across the globe allow neighbors to be modern-day Andrew Carnegies.

In 2009, small, weatherproof structures started showing up alongside homes, stores and bike paths in Hudson, Wis. Children and adults alike could find books packed inside, free to anyone needing a good story. Since then, the Little Free Library — a neighborhood book exchange created to promote a sense of community, literacy and the love of reading — has grown to 6,000 outlets in 46 countries. It’s one of the largest library networks in the world, surpassing philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s total of 2,509 libraries.

A Google map on the organization’s website pinpoints each library by its physical address and GPS coordinates. Stewards are encouraged to create each structure from repurposed materials using green building techniques, but the design is up to them. Libraries are available for purchase at the website for those who’d prefer to fast-track their project. With an honor checkout system, community members then donate books while discovering new tomes for their reading pleasure.

“Neighborhoods and communities get excited about the libraries,” says co-founder Todd Bol. “I’ve seen people squeal and hug the libraries when they find them. They have redefined neighborhoods and made residents more communicative.” His next goal is getting
a Little Free Library in every small town in America and all around the world.