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Old 11-05-2019, 08:26 PM
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Little Free Libraries


Does anyone here have one, or use one, or has seen one being used? I know of a few people who have these unlocked cabinets in their front yards but have never actually seen anyone emptying or filling them, and some charitable organizations have built them but keep them stocked with nonperishable foods and/or hygiene products.

The closest I've come to seeing one being used was one in the lobby of a local community center in a low-income neighborhood; it's filled with children's books and light adult reading and does get some use.
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Old 11-05-2019, 08:31 PM
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There are three scattered around my mom's neighborhood, one of which she built herself. I think she's the primary stocker for them, but other folks add books, too.

And my church has a library that's based on the same principle, except taking up an entire room. I ended up as the librarian, mostly because nobody told me I wasn't, and I do what I can to keep the books organized.
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Old 11-05-2019, 08:46 PM
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Mrs Piper put one up a couple of years ago. There are two or three others on our block, and they all seem to get a lot of traffic.

It was a godsend for our house, overflowing with books. We're both readers, and "you can't throw out a book!" So we were drowning in books that " are really interesting and I'm sure I'll read it again some day."

But just putting them in the little free library is perfect. You're not throwing it out - you're letting someone else have it. The excess of books in our house has steadily gone down.

Mind you, we're in a neighbourhood with lots of walkers, so it works really well. If we were in a new developments, where the house is essentially attached to a garage and people just get in their cars to go everywhere, it probably wouldn't work so well.
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Old 11-05-2019, 08:51 PM
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There's one right outside my apartment building that I should start feeding, now that I've read Northern Piper's post. Never actually looked in it, and they're all over St. Paul.
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Old 11-05-2019, 09:05 PM
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But occasionally you get somethings put int that you don't want.

A University of Manitoba course catalogue from 1966? Really, you can't just huck it in trash?

Then there was the autographed copy of David Duke's autobiography. A bit creepy, knowing that someone in our neighbour had it and was passing it along
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Old 11-05-2019, 09:21 PM
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I downsized a few years ago and really needed to get rid of boxes and boxes of old paperbacks so I checked out the LFL map, found a veritable crapload in my town and spent some highly enjoyable hours dropping off books all over my side of the city. I'd put three or four boxes into the back of my car then when I had nothing much else to do I'd go drop a few books here, few books there until I'd distributed them all far and wide. I loved seeing how each little library was decorated and what sort of books each one was accumulating. I ran into a few people who genuinely thought refilling the little libraries was my day job! It was a fun way to get rid of reading matter I no longer had room for and I like to think that at least a few people appreciated my offerings. Little Free Libraries are one of the sweetest ideas anyone ever had. I'm a fan.
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Old 11-05-2019, 09:22 PM
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I ran into one by a lake in rural Quebec. One shelf books in French, the other in English. On the English shelf was a translation of Baudelaire's poems. Go figure...
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Old 11-05-2019, 09:28 PM
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There are lots in my town, and the books at the ones I visit rotate pretty regularly. Of course, sometimes there's a bunch of neo-Nazi or anti-abortion propaganda, but that's true at the bus stop[, too.
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Old 11-05-2019, 09:35 PM
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There is one on my road made out of an old post box, though I've never stopped or seen it used. I do notice the door is sometimes closed, so someone pays at least some attention to it. This is in rural Maine.

I've never seen another, and this thread is the first time I realized this was "a thing".

Last edited by goldmund; 11-05-2019 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 11-05-2019, 10:15 PM
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My wife volunteered to take care of the one in front of the elementary school this year. She checks it every week or two, and removes age inappropriate books (would a precocious fifth grader read this?) Those get passed on to other free libraries. She also clears out the occasional propaganda pamphlet and outdated textbook. My contribution was to group it by author and title.

At the start of the year both shelves were nearly full, but now one of the shelves is almost completely empty, so somebody is taking books, and I hope reading them.
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Old 11-05-2019, 10:27 PM
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My wife takes care of one of those where she works in Providence. The homeless find books very useful.
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Old 11-05-2019, 11:21 PM
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I've borrowed books from a few. And I've deposited books in a few.

I'm thinking about putting up one of my own. I've got a couple of boxes of boxes I want to get rid of and this would be a good way to do it.
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:07 AM
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I have one in front of my house which I built from scratch, not from one of the kits sold at the LFL website.

I'm on a residential street that gets a fair amount of foot traffic, with two elementary schools a few blocks east and west of me and a couple of bus routes at either end of the street. The LFL stays pretty well stocked. Every now and then I cull any books that no one is ever going to want to read. And every few weeks my Jehovah's Witness neighbor puts in some religious indoctrination books and I throw them away. But people have left some excellent books, too. Mostly they're good.

The neighbor directly across the street brings over his 2-yr-old daughter every couple of days and they make a big production out of exchanging books. It's very sweet.

My cat likes to sit out next to the LFL and get petted by visitors. For Halloween I put out a fake cat skeleton in her spot on a leash attached to the LFL post.
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Old 11-06-2019, 01:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
But occasionally you get somethings put int that you don't want.

A University of Manitoba course catalogue from 1966? Really, you can't just huck it in trash?

Then there was the autographed copy of David Duke's autobiography. A bit creepy, knowing that someone in our neighbour had it and was passing it along
David Duke can write his name?

Srsly, both of those might be worth something on eBay.
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Old 11-06-2019, 02:07 AM
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Now that I think about it, I took an out-of-town overnight trip last year and they had their version of an LFL in the lobby - unofficially, a shelf of adult (as in "not for children") books, mostly Westerns because that's what people had left behind, and a shelf of kids' books. I had some library castoffs in my trunk and left an armful there, and the rest at a thrift store down the street.

My old town had a similar kind of thing at the Amtrak station and their airport, which was fairly small, and a library volunteer who lived in the neighborhood maintained them. Many local food pantries, including the one at my church, also have books available for people to take if they want them, mostly children's but also "clean" adult books, both fiction and nonfiction.

Last edited by nearwildheaven; 11-06-2019 at 02:09 AM.
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Old 11-06-2019, 02:30 AM
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Originally Posted by nearwildheaven View Post
Now that I think about it, I took an out-of-town overnight trip last year and they had their version of an LFL in the lobby - unofficially, a shelf of adult (as in "not for children") books, mostly Westerns because that's what people had left behind, and a shelf of kids' books. I had some library castoffs in my trunk and left an armful there, and the rest at a thrift store down the street.
Reminds me of the time my car broke down in a city about a thousand miles from home. Repairs were covered by warranty, but they would take a day or two to complete, and I'd have to leave my car at the shop there at least one night. Well, I got a hotel room, went out and explored the city a bit, and went back to the hotel. I planned to grab a bite and a drink in the bar.

To my dismay, the hotel bar had no TV, but to my delight, the hotel bar did have a shelf of books. A few shelves, actually. "Help yourself," said the barman. "We operate it like a Little Free Library. People are always bringing books in, so don't worry about leaving one behind. If you want to take one, go ahead. That'll make more room for future donations."

I selected a novel, and began reading. It was gripping from the start (some kind of thriller, as I recall), and after my meal, I took it to my room and kept reading. The next day, my car was ready, and I took the book with me--I hadn't finished it, after all. I eventually did, and my ex-wife enjoyed it too, after I had finished it.

Little Free Libraries are a great idea, IMHO.

Last edited by Spoons; 11-06-2019 at 02:32 AM.
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Old 11-06-2019, 03:52 AM
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I haven't found one in the town I now live in, but there's a few in old phone boxes in villages round here. I've nosed in a few and I'd guess someone's maintaining them- they're a bit heavy on the Dan Brown type stuff, but it's not junk junk.

There was one in the launderette near where I used to live, that I used to try and keep supplied. Books went, they didn't seem to come in as fast as they went out, but it was right next door to a halfway house type shelter, so I'm guessing there were quite a few people around there with not a lot to swap. Fair enough.
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Old 11-06-2019, 04:18 AM
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A good friend of mine has one in Alexandria, VA, maintains it carefully and posts about it on Facebook. Her neighbors use it in the generous spirit in which it is offered. There's also one near my brother's house in Bainbridge Island, WA, right near the beach where he walks his dog. These are both fairly ritzy neighborhoods with well-educated neighbors, so I don't know much about the places where these little libraries are vandalized.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:03 AM
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They're all over the place around here, in front of schools, at the edge of peoples yards, on random street corners just about anywhere in town, but usually near a church or school or some such if downtown.
Did a move last year, on pack day the neighbor had an old skinny china/curio cabinet full up next to the garage. When we came back the next day to load, our customer told us the HOA prez got into it quite loudly with the homeowner over it right there in the street. The little library was gone though.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:44 AM
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I haven't found one in the town I now live in, but there's a few in old phone boxes in villages round here. I've nosed in a few and I'd guess someone's maintaining them- they're a bit heavy on the Dan Brown type stuff, but it's not junk junk.......
I knew of this (phone box libraries) from fairly regularly cycling past one in Cowden, Kent, but it looks like it's quite the phenomenon. (That blog has a mysteriously ugly title, but it appears to be just a list of phonebox libraries).

j
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:01 AM
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There is one on my daughter's street in Park Slope, Brooklyn and she uses it regularly both to give and to take. One day, I helped her carry a load of books to it and the next day most of them were gone. Great idea. I have to check if any in my neighborhood. I think our town library has such a shelf of "free books" to give or to take.
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:12 AM
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We have one in our front yard. Put it up summer before last, and I’d say the books have turned over have a dozen times in two years. When the supply gets low, we augment it, because they seem to go out faster than they come in. It’s always fun to see people in the yard browsing!
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:23 AM
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There's one in my city, and I often take books that were donated to our library and put them in there. Sometimes I take books out of there too. It's a good community service.

Our library also has a free shelf, and an alcove with books for sale for a quarter or fifty cents. One of the joys in my life when I was really, really poor was knowing I could get a book and donate to the library at the same time.
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:35 AM
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When I moved to my new home six years ago, I thought about putting one up but there were already at least three in my neighborhood of about 300 homes. I thought that was enough and I could just contribute to their libraries. Now, there are at least seven.

I use them from time to time. I try to return books I borrow, especially when they are currently popular books that others might want to read. I also contribute from time to time but I probably take more books than I contribute because I'm a minor book hoarder.

Do people who maintain LFLs expect borrowed books to be returned? People I've talked with seem split on whether returning books is even expected. I used to think returning books was the norm but I'm convinced now it isn't.

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My cat likes to sit out next to the LFL and get petted by visitors. For Halloween I put out a fake cat skeleton in her spot on a leash attached to the LFL post.
That's hilarious!
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:09 AM
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There are at least six within easy walking distance of my house, and all of them see regular exchange. I have definitely gotten rid of some books I no longer wanted in them, and someone took them.
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:40 AM
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There are quite a few in my neighborhood. We walk a lot and in doing so found one that had a steady supply of children and young adult books. I used that one to slowly whittle down my comic book collection, putting in about 300 comics over a year. I hope it was the kids getting them and not the 40 year old dads
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:44 AM
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There are three or four in nearby Shelbyville, IN. I've supplied a goodly number of paperbacks, and taken away one or two.
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:45 AM
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I see one here and there in various neighborhoods in my area. And there's one outside the (currently embattled) Founder's Tap Room in Detroit.
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:51 AM
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When I lived in my old apartment some 15 years ago, there was a small book case near the elevator where people would leave books and periodicals. Few of the actual books were to my tastes but I did have a habit of taking the Reader's Digests for some bathroom reading. I think I left some magazines and stuff myself. There was also a book shelf at the train station. I rarely took the train and thus never used it but I did drop off a bunch of books one day after thinning my collection. Hope someone enjoyed them.

The nearest official LFL is at a community college near me -- I wonder how much use it actually gets given its proximity to a Big Free Library.
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:17 PM
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We vacation in St Martin every year. Last year we helped establish a free library in Marigot, the capital of the French side. This year we will bring some books to add (last year we bought new books).
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:21 PM
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My town has one of those; I didn't realize that I could just add books to it. I will do so.
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:30 PM
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Good for you bobot. Not only are you recycling, but you are helping people who cannot afford to buy reading materials and making their day a little brighter.
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:38 PM
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It's fun for me when I see that the books I put in previously have been taken. There are three LFLs within biking distance of me and a friend of mine had one built at her retail location.
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:45 PM
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Good for you bobot. Not only are you recycling, but you are helping people who cannot afford to buy reading materials and making their day a little brighter.
I used to think that too. At least one very small analysis finds that LFLs (in two Canadian cities at least) tend to cluster in whiter, higher-income neighborhoods with well-educated people. Once I read the study, I realized that this is my personal experience too. Upper middle class neighborhoods have tons of LFLs because they have tons of people with an excess of books to get rid of.

https://www.citylab.com/life/2017/05...raries/523533/

LFLs mostly help neighbors who already have books to share their books with their other neighbors who already have books. It does help reuse books though, which is even better than recycling.
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Old 11-06-2019, 01:13 PM
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For what it's worth, my town is racially diverse and far from wealthy, so Annie's hope is likely true for me.
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Old 11-06-2019, 03:23 PM
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They are all over the place in my neighborhood. Within walking distance there are at least six of them. One neighborhood over, there are even more.

Which reminds me, it's time to load up a bunch of books and get rid of them by stocking up these nearby LFLs. It is to hope that I don't come home with as many books as I've left.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:32 PM
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Searching around ...

None near me. Says something about the mentality of the people in my county.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:37 PM
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I see them around. What a great idea. Anyone can start one!

A bit off-topic, but my friend collects children's books all year long, and gives them away at Halloween (along with candy and fun games). I thought that was an awesome idea that should spread.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:41 PM
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The prison I just started working at has such a box by the parking lot, and it seems accessible to both employees and visitors. I plan to learn more about it. It seems moderately well stocked but I haven't checked out the titles. I hope to contribute some books.
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Old 11-06-2019, 06:00 PM
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There are two near my home that I walk by almost daily and a few more that I walk by fairly regularly. The two that I see all the time have high turnover. Books rarely last more than a day or so and then they're gone. I assume someone is taking them. I've left books in them myself, and they're usually gone pretty soon. (It can feel a little insulting if no one picks your book up right away. It's like a statement on your taste.)

The others seem to be different each time I walk by.

It's interesting to see what ends up there. Sometimes, it's obvious that someone is cleaning out their bookshelves (once, there were a dozen Russian classic novels (I don't speak Russian, but I can sound out "Tolstoy" and "Dostoevsky" on the spine of a book). Once someone left a ton of comic books). Sometimes, it seems to be just a random volume that someone finished and put there.

I do live in a highly walkable neighborhood - so, people are passing them on foot all the time. I don't know whether it would work as well in suburbs.
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Old 11-06-2019, 07:21 PM
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I knew of this (phone box libraries) from fairly regularly cycling past one in Cowden, Kent, but it looks like it's quite the phenomenon. (That blog has a mysteriously ugly title, but it appears to be just a list of phonebox libraries).

j
The name's memorable, that's for sure.

The library I volunteer at doesn't get quite as many Dan Brown books as they did when I started volunteering there in 2012, when I moved back here, but that's been replaced by Stieg Larsson books and the "Twilight" series.

Anyone remember this story? We've had surprisingly few "Fifty Shades" books donated.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-e...-a6947816.html
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:25 PM
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We put one in our front yard about a year ago made out of an old cupboard. We put our excess lemons and limes from our trees in a bucket next to it to entice people. It was a slow start but now gets regular visits and has a steady turnover of books without us doing much at all. Some of the books we log on Book Crossing which serves a similar function but the books are allowed to roam free instead of being cooped up in a little book prison.
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:35 PM
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There's one near us. I've gotten from there, and have donated as well. My wife is a book lover and occasionally "weeds". Too many cookbooks, though.
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:41 PM
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Quote:
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Upper middle class neighborhoods have tons of LFLs because they have tons of people with an excess of books to get rid of.
Huh? The LFLs are there because someone had the time, ability, knowledge, or money to do it. The kits sold at the LFL website cost many hundreds of dollars. The one I built from scratch was made mostly with scrap wood, but I still spent a bundle on hardware and other incidentals. And you have to own the property, or you lose it when you move out. I know a lot of people who have them. None of them buillt them because they had too many books. They built them because of civic-mindedness.
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:47 PM
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Personally, I think that it's poor form to always take books and never give any, but I don't mind an imbalance. And it's certainly not necessary to give the same book back: If everyone did that, then there'd never be room for new contributions.
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Old 11-07-2019, 09:24 AM
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My city's LFL is located in the downtown area, right next to a bus stop. And the city is very diverse, so it ain't only the rich people taking advantage of it.
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Old 11-07-2019, 09:38 AM
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I've been thinking about putting one in my yard. We're in a poor neighborhood and the street is one of the main routes local kids use to get to the high school that's about 1/2 mile from my house. I have a good spot for it, the end of a retaining wall that separates the yard from my driveway.

I'm thinking I could buy an old busted mini-fridge and use that. I'll either replace the door or just cut out a hole in it and put in some plexiglass so it has a window. Odds are about equal it will be used as intended, or used as a trash receptacle, or both, but hey, I tried.


I've read about some criticisms of LFLs, e.g. that they only exist in places that don't really need them (i.e. rich white neighborhoods), and/or they contribute to gentrification, and/or they "take away" from actual public libraries, none of which I find particularly compelling.

Last edited by DCnDC; 11-07-2019 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:02 AM
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I give books to my mother in law for hers - which is well used - the books turn over frequently. People tend to take more often than they give - and she needs to curate it a little and throw out the "this just needs to go away" She likes it when I give her my garbage reading - pulp romance novels - those move quick. (The downside is that my mother in law cannot throw things out. So currently in my trash is a 1993 Machinist Ready Reference that she brought over, just in case my son would find it useful - he's a welder, not a machinist)

She lives in a diverse neighborhood - a lot of old hippies, a lot of immigrants....its the sort of neighborhood where people walk by her LFL to get to the grocery coop up the street. Its close to the University of Minnesota, so people are interested readers - but it isn't a upper class gentrified neighborhood - its the neighborhood you moved to if you majored in Art History and now manage a little boho coffee shop and your partner teaches English at the middle school.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:03 AM
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Annie-Xmas, your town only has one?
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:06 AM
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There are several here in Arlington. I've used them as easy ways to donate books I no longer read. I mostly read e-books, so I don't usually take books from them, but it makes me happy to see them used.
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