Take a book, return a book – The Little Free Libraries of Melbourne

Melbourne's Little Free Library is booming, tiny libraries are popping up in front yards all across the city. Neighbours are seeing more of one another, spreading the word on this movement of community-based book exchanges.

Published by Netta on 10/01/2018

Around the side streets of Melbourne, you may have seen little hand crafted wooden boxes with the words ‘library’ on them. Communities are sharing books with each other in a trust system of take one, leave one. Often found in front of people’s houses, nature strips or on bike paths, they add colour and enjoyment for neighbourhoods.

A City Made By People Melbourne Little Free Library Brunswick1

What’s better than a good book? Well how about sharing that good book with your neighbour and potentially getting another good book in return? One of the best ways of building a good community is through sharing, and the Little Free Library movement is a great example of communities coming together.

Originating in the USA in 2009 when Todd H. Bol designed and built the first Little Free Library at his home. Since then, the nonprofit organization has inspired people from around the world to do the same and Melbourne has embraced the concept.

A City Made By People Melbourne Little Free Library Preston1
A City Made By People Melbourne Little Free Library Preston2

Take a look around as you walk through the streets of your suburb, you may spot a hand crafted wooden box containing a few books sitting in front of your neighbours house. Or perhaps you have noticed an ornate looking shelf on the council nature strip, or next to a bike path. Communities are re-claiming these common spaces and taking it upon themselves to help nurture creativity and foster reading.

A City Made By People Melbourne Little Free Library Brunswick2
A City Made By People Melbourne Little Free Library Brunswick3

“I had to apply to the council to build my little library as its on council land, they were very supportive. A friend helped me build it to withstand the crazy Melbourne weather; it’s the first thing I’ve ever built so I am really proud of it,” - Edward Street, Brunswick

The process of having to build a mini casing to hold books in, offers people an opportunity to be creative in design, art and workmanship. Add to that the interaction this ignites with your fellow neighbours, and such a simple idea can be so rewarding. 92% of people say their neighbourhood feels like a friendlier place because of a Little Free Library.

“We love reading and love being able to share that love. So far our little library has generated a lot of interest in the street and the selection inside has more or less completely changed several times,’’ - Mason Street, Newport

The very practice of reading a physical book is something new generations are losing, with the digital age of electronic kindles you are more likely to see someone glued to their phone then a book. Libraries can find it hard to shake off the stuffy stigma of somewhere you associate with study, perhaps this new approach of displaying books in an exciting and different way will entice more to take a moment to stop, sit down and read real pages.

A City Made By People Melbourne Little Free Library Collective

Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. To find your nearest Little Library use the map or for more info on building your own littlefreelibrary.org

Words & Images by Netta Justice

Keen on setting up a Little Free Library all of a sudden? Wouldn't it be cool to see one of our journals in there? If you haven't already, check out Issue 1 & 2 of A City Made By People here: https://store.acitymadebypeople.com/

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