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Building Community with Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds

Little free libraries and tiny sheds are colourful community structures created to foster neighbourhood sharing. With the enormous volume of stuff we have likely gathered in our homes, these spaces allow unused items to get a second life with someone who needs them. While little free libraries originated as a book sharing tool, many have popped up for other purposes like sharing plants, vegetable harvests, seeds, and tools.Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds

I’m lucky to live in a creative community full of generous and sharing people who value neighbours and our neighbourhood. We have online message boards, neighbourhood grants, block parties, festivals, and a whole bunch of little free libraries. As a writer, I’m thrilled to share books and pick up a new treasure while out for a walk. Just the other day I grabbed book on writing papers in the biological sciences and a post-apocalyptic thriller. Two books I wouldn’t have sought out, but they were fun to find nonetheless!

Little Free Library Templeton Vancouver

Speaking of fun little treasures, I recently got a copy of Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds in the mail, Which gave me an opportunity to learn a little bit more about little free libraries.

Painted Little Free Library

Little Free Libraries first started popping up only ten years ago, and now there are over 80,000 of them to be found in 90 countries. Of course, anything that’s popular comes with its own set of challenges. There are news articles about Little Free Library vandalism, city council’s that dub them “illegal detached structures“, and librarians against little free libraries. But the majority of people enjoy having these cheerful little structures to take a book or share a book, and perhaps even become the neighbourhood water cooler.
Flower Box Donating Center Photo By Bethany Nelson

Ideas for all Types of Tiny Structures

Sharing books really isn’t the only way to use this community system. Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds lists a bunch of for all types of structures. They are great for “exchanging other things, for donating goods, or even for personal storage and non-public locations.” Here are some ideas from the book:
  • Gardener’s exchange—tools, seeds, homegrown foods, growing
  • Tool booth—go-to yard and garden tools
  • Homeowners’ depot—home repair and remodeling tools, DIY books, building materials, hardware
  • CD swap—music, movies, video games
  • Kitchen pantry—kitchen tools, recipes, cookbooks, dry goods, food magazines
  • Clothes and equipment closet—hand-me-down clothes for babies, kids, adults; outgrown cleats and helmets; unused balls, bats, and rackets
  • Board game library— for finding or sharing family favorites

Little Garden Shed Photo by Crystal Liepa

Tips from the Head Librarian

When thinking about installing a little free library or tiny shed there’s more to just consider and what you’ll put inside. The structure has to be able to weather the elements, have a welcoming design, and be in a permitted location. Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds gives a whole bunch of great ideas for how to design everything you can think of for your little free library like adding a guest book, dog leash hook, and lighting!
Public Seed Library Photo by Crystal Liepa
Todd Bol the founder of Little Free Library, shared some tips in the book for some basic building principles.
  • Use recycled, salvage, and found materials if you can.
  • Use green building techniques whenever possible.
  • Build the library to last. Most libraries will be outside by a sidewalk or a bike or walking path, so they will need protection from rain, high and low temperatures, wind, and snow. The shelf should be strong and the box watertight. The outside walls and roof or top should be weather resistant.
  • Screws work better than nails.
  • Make it safe. Avoid using glass or any other material that can cause harm to curious children or adults. Use plexiglass on the doors so that passersby can see the books inside. If you use old would be sure it does not have lead paint on it! If you use metal, file off burrs and rough edges.
  • Make sure the signs on your library easy to read from 5 to 10 feet away.
  • Don’t feel obligated to build your library exactly like the ones you see. We value creativity!
Community Little Free Library Photo by Roger Siljander
Community Little Free Library Photo by Roger Siljander

Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds

If you are looking for a creative building project for your street, school, or community garden, be sure to grab a copy of carpenter Philip Schmidt and’s new project book with 12 miniature structures you can build. Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds is the builder’s complete source of inspiration and building plans for making these post-mounted strictures. Philip Schmidt includes information on proper installation of small structures and common repairs and maintenance for down the road.

Little Shed Design Photo by Crystal Liepa

Excerpts and photography reprinted with permission from Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds by Philip Schmidt and, © 2019. Published by Cool Springs Press. Photography: Crystal Liepa, Shutterstock/Roger Siljander, iStock, Bethany Nelson/Burning Boxes of MN

More Community Building Projects to Try


  1. I love the idea of having a little sharing shed for extra veggies! I’ve seen the little free libraries, but never thought of extending it to other items.


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