How can a small box of books transform your community? Read about Freeland Parish Council’s Little Free Library project to find out!
Freeland is a small village in rural Oxfordshire. Every year, West Oxfordshire District Council invites local organisations to apply for a Community Activities Grant, which can be used for any heritage or arts projects. Cllr Matthew Ruddle, from Freeland Parish Council, successfully applied for a grant of about £350, to cover the costs of setting up a Little Free Library.
What is a Little Free Library? “Essentially, it is a small box that acts as a place where people can exchange used books” explains Matthew. He first came across Little Free Libraries when he lived in the United States; the very first Little Free Library was opened in Wisconsin in 2009, and it has since become a global phenomenon, with an estimated 36,000 of them dotted all over the world. “I thought it would be a good idea to try having one in the village” said Matthew, “and thankfully my fellow councillors agreed”.
The simple idea behind the Little Free Library is “take a book, leave a book”; anyone is welcome to take or donate as many books as they like, whenever they like. “It is not a traditional library, in that there is no permanent collection, rather books come and go as they are donated and taken by members of the community using the book exchange”. Matthew estimates that over two thousand books have passed through Freeland’s Little Free Library in its first twelve months, which is a huge number, considering the small size of the box.
“I’m amazed at how successful this project has been in the village” Matthew says. “When we first set it up, we had no idea if people would use it, or be willing to donate their used books, but people have been very generous, and have really embraced concept of the Little Free Library. People are always coming up to me, telling me how much they love it!”
What’s the secret of its success? “I think it’s so successful because, in general, people like getting things for free, and this project is very much owned by the community; they are the ones who donate and take the books. I think people like knowing that a book they enjoyed reading is being shared in the community for someone else to read. The book exchange creates links between people, really, and that is great in any community. I also think people like the element of surprise; you never know what you are going to find, because different books are coming and going all the time.”
Freeland’s Little Free Library serves all members of the community, and even has a shelf designated for children’s books. Freeland Parish Council put their Little Free Library roughly in the middle of the village, about halfway between the village hall and school, in an attempt to make it as accessible as possible. All kinds of people use it, from retired people down to young children, who often stop by on their way home from school. Below are some comments from people who use the Little Free Library in Freeland.
“We love our visits to the Little Free Library, we’ve borrowed some very good books, and it has encouraged us to sort through our books at home in order to donate some! A real asset to our village, thank you.”
“An excellent idea – a great way to exchange old books and to enjoy new ones.”
“Such a fantastic idea! You never know what you will end up with.”
“This idea is fantastic! Every time I am bored, I ask my mum if I can go to the Little Free Library. It makes me happy to get a book from here.”
Freeland Parish Council’s top tips for setting up your own Little Free Library:
Visit littlefreelibrary.org , the website of the official Little Free Library organisation, for ideas and information.
Locate your Little Free Library somewhere that is easy to find, where a lot of people tend to walk by.
Have at least one person who is willing to look after the Little Free Library on behalf of the parish council. I check ours every other day or so, adding books if it looks empty or taking some out if it gets too full.
If you would like to contact Matthew to discuss Freeland’s Little Free Library project, send an email to Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org.