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Little Free Library: a social-distancing-friendly way to get kids out of the house

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I think all of us moms are reeling from the current world happenings due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many moms used to sending their kids to school have been thrust into a homeschooling environment overnight. Even us homeschoolers are adjusting to a new normal that doesn’t include field-trips, co-ops, playdates, and trips to the local library. Even going to the park or playing with the neighbor kids seems too risky! While our local libraries are still offering online ordering and curbside pickup (hallelujah!), I’ve been thinking a lot about another avenue to practice social distancing while still getting your kids out of the house. May I introduce you to Little Free Library. 

Little Free Library

I would be remiss if I do not give fair warning that, according to the CDC, “Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.” (source) So, it may be advisable to follow come common sense protective steps, such as:

  • Using hand sanitizer before and after any Little Free Library visits
  • Using Lysol or other cleaner to sanitize books BEFORE donating
  • Using Lysol or other cleaner to sanitize books you bring home
  • Letting books sit for 2-3 days before handling them

Little Free Library

As a mom who values education, community involvement, and – ahem –  keeping my kids occupied so I don’t lose my mind, I have fallen in love with the Little Free Library non-profit organization. We have made a habit of visiting our closest Little Free Libraries frequently and documenting our visits in a Facebook album I have called “Our Little Free Library Adventures.” 

Little Free Library

About Little Free Library

“Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.” Basically, Little Free Libraries is a network of public “book boxes” (as my kids call them) throughout USA that allow free exchanging of books for both children and adults. The tagline “Take a book, leave a book!” is rather self-explanatory. Communities, organizations, schools, churches, and even individuals purchase the library and set it up in a publicly accessible spot. The box is then filled with used books, and the magic begins!

Little Free Library

Reasons to love Little Free Library

There are libraries everywhere!

Once you have your eye out for them, you will realize that Little Free Libraries are EVERYWHERE!

On our first “Little Free Library Adventure,” I printed off the addresses for all the libraries within a 10 mile radius. We spent several hours and only made it to HALF of the libraries on the list! There’s over 15 libraries in my zip code alone.

We also have found libraries outside of our area when we have been out of town.

This Little Free Library is run by the Ohio library I visited as a child!
This Little Free Library is run by the Ohio library I visited as a child!

24/7/365 access!

Because Little Free Libraries are public and outdoors, they are accessible whenever you need an activity for your kids! We have never met another human being on visiting any libraries (with the exception of one library owner). So this is perfect for social distancing and getting your kids some fresh air!!! 

We are now Facebook friends with this lovely Little Free Library owner!
We are now Facebook friends with this lovely Little Free Library owner!

Whether it’s a hot summer day towards the end of summer when your kids are bored out of their minds or one of those 4th or 5th “snow” days after a snow storm when your roads are clear, but the school is still off, [OR WHEN THERE’S A GLOBAL VIRAL PANDEMIC] this is ALWAYS in your arsenal of things to do with your kids that’s fun, profitable, and gets you all out of the house!

Little Free Library

One of my favorite memories is the morning my children woke up at 5:30 AM on Thanksgiving Day, 2018. We had plans to eat with family – at 1PM! I had no idea how to fill the hours! So I took 10 minutes, threw some books in a box, loaded them in the van, and took off. The 15 minute trip to Grandma’s house took several hours as we hit libraries all the way to her house!

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Visit over and over and get different results!

Unlike other day trips where you visit and see all their is to see, the libraries are ALWAYS changing! You never know what you will get when you visit!

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Little Free Libraries make it easy to purge your stash and keep your personal library fresh!

Have you ever gotten a book from a friend or family member that you didn’t plan on reading or letting your kids read? Now you don’t have to feel guilty! Leave it at a Little Free Library and come home with something that’s a better fit!

This also makes it easy to keep up with your kids current reading level without spending any money. Just this morning, I dropped off some ABCs and 123s board books because my kids are beyond that stage. I came home with books about ocean science and a Little House on the Prairie book!

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Tips for Using Little Free Libraries

Wrestle with the tech and plan your trips ahead of time.

My one criticism of the Little Free Library is their online map, which isn’t the most user-friendly. What I have found is that it won’t show every library every time you search. Also, searching by zipcode vs. city vs. “near me” will pull up different results! I would LOVE to see them develop an app for this program that lists all the libraries! But, until that happens…make sure you are zooming in and out on the map, trying different search criteria, and finding MORE libraries!

The first time we went and made a day trip out of it, I printed off addresses to look up in my phone and numbered the libraries in an order that I felt would be good for us. This was very helpful!

I eventually put all our local libraries on a Google map that I can pull up on my phone and also created a Google spreadsheet! (If you are local to the Triad area of North Carolina, feel free to use my spreadsheet here!)

Pay it forward!

Depending on the location of the library, the genres may be different. Libraries in older neighborhoods tend to be filled with fiction novels for adults. Libraries at schools and preschools tend to be filled with books for kids. If there are no children’s books for me to take, I always try to leave some regardless.

If I have books with me, I always try to leave more than I take. That way, if I run across a library when I’m out and don’t have anything with me, I don’t feel so bad about taking a book even though I haven’t left one that time. If you are in the habit of paying it forward with a giving heart towards your community by leaving books regularly, I think it’s okay because it all evens out. Just don’t clear out a library and leave nothing left for anyone else.

Consider starting your own library!

It’s on my bucket list to start a library in my neighborhood! To start your own, you can purchase supplies to build the library from the Little Free Library website. More information on how to start your own library can be found here.

Leave a note!

Many libraries have a guestbook, so it’s a really great way to practice note-writing with your kids. This is also a perfect place to leave friendship rocks, if your kids are in to painting those.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

I hope that you try Little Free Library with your kids, wherever you are! If you do, come back here and leave us a comment! We would love to hear from you!

Little Free Library


This post has been altered and adapted from its original post, Why We Love Little Free Libraries, published on June 14, 2019 on Triad Moms on Main by the author, myself, who guest-posted for them. 

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