Community Waste and consumption

How do you grow a little library?

Setting up a ‘little library’ for your neighbourhood is easy, I set up the Lowther Road Free Little Library in the spring/summer of 2019. We started with a simple shelf and lidded plastic tub which we brought in each evening. After a while, as the library grew, we converted a used bookcase into a cupboard which could be sited permanently on our drive. Our cupboard was made using 100% donated items and the library grew and grew!Skip forwards to now, we have 2 cupboards which are always packed with books of every genre and age group entirely donated/swapped by the local community.

During lockdown 2020 our little library really grew in popularity as people found local libraries closed, and were faced with long stretches of time at home. It was during this time that I got to know people who would become our regular visitors and most avid supporters.

Since staring our free little library I have donated excess stock to local charities, schools, nurseries, helped 3 other free little libraries get started, and I’m currently supporting one more which will be opening soon. It’s really great to see people getting involved with the sharing and exchanging of pre-loved books.

I’d encourage anyone who has the time and space to create a free little library in their area, the most important things to consider are:-

Location – the library must be on your property and not obstruct public walkways.

Maintenance – the library takes much more seasonal maintenance than I had expected, there is always something to do; repaint, protect from weather, checking visitors have closed the doors, tidying the shelves etc

Excess stock storage – no matter how well you manage donations there will be times when someone anonymously leaves boxes and bags of books at your library that you simply don’t have space for. Consider making links with other local free libraries to share stock, or be sure you have some extra space.

Our free little library has become a part of our community, I provide content to Bury Social Prescribing team in the form of book reviews for their monthly newsletter, we often serve as a donation point for charities and have a permanent donation point for Humans MCR food bank. This isn’t a necessary part of running a little library, but it is something we enjoy being a part of.

Setting up a free little library was incredibly easy, once people heard about us they were visiting and swapping books almost immediately. We do have a social media presence but I wouldn’t say it’s necessary at all. Some of my favourite little libraries to visit rely only on word of mouth, some huge cupboards, some single shelves, but all making books accessible, and free, to all. Reducing waste, encouraging a love of reading in children, and adding value to their local communities.

Here’s a map to all the free little libraries in Manchester, put together by Manchester little library trail Facebook.