Little Free Libraries

“Little free libraries” are popping up in front of houses, apartments, parks and other public spaces across the country. Since 2009, these handcrafted book boxes, which hold between 20 and 100 books, have multiplied, amounting to as many as 4,000 libraries across the world. And they’re helping neighborhoods bolster community spirit and cohesion.

In his 2013 book, Small-Town America: Finding Community, Shaping the Future, sociologist Robert Wuthnow finds that social spaces such as football games, festivals, and public events cultivate “community spirit” and help bring small-town residents together. Exchanging and discussing literature can be a particularly helpful element of building community identity, according to Wendy Griswold and Nathan Wright in a 2004 American Journal of Sociology article, “Cowbirds, Locals, and Dynamic Endurance of Regionalism.”

Little free libraries also offer an interesting snapshot of local interests, permitting visitors a glimpse into their neighbors’ worlds. This is because the meanings of cultural artifacts, such as books, are influenced by the social spaces where they reside, according to sociologists Clayton Childress and Noah Friedkin, writing in 2012 in the American Sociological Review.

So, before you get rid of your unused books, think about donating them to the little free library near you. You may receive new treasures—and new friends—in return.