Introduction: Little Free Library

Picture of Little Free Library
Join the Little Free Library movement by building your own.  Thousands of people have already done so.  Here's an article in our local newspaper about this one.  The size can be anything from a cubic foot up, so there's lots of flexibility in design and materials.

The Little Free Library web site has good tips and plans for builders and I used those as a starting point.  Mine is a little larger and has these design characteristics: Materials:
  • Half sheet of 5/8" exterior plywood for walls, floor, and roof
  • Recycled pine for trim, shelf, and braces
  • Recycled asphalt shingles
  • Recycled aluminum flashing
  • Recycled mirror frame for door
  • Hinges and hook for door
  • Weatherstrip rubber foam self-stick tape for door
  • Clear acrylic for door
  • Push glazier points for door
  • Box of #8 x 1-1/2" flat head brass wood screws
  • Wood glue
  • Caulk
  • Enamel paint for exterior
  • Translucent oil stain for interior
  • Recycled 2x8 for base
  • 4"x6"x8' pressure-treated post
  • Lag screws for post, braces, and base
  • Bag of gravel mix cement
  • Circular saw.  A table saw would be even better but I don't have one.
  • Carpenter's square
  • Tape measure
  • 1/4" drill with Phillips bit, drill bits for pilot holes and flat boring bit to counterbore lag screws
  • Phillips screwdriver.
  • Paint brushes and rags
  • Caulking gun
  • Level
  • Socket wrench
Update:  This Little Free Library has held up well in Vermont's harsh climate.  After a year it needed just a little touch-up paint.

Step 1: Draw Out Your Plan

Picture of Draw Out Your Plan
Don't skip this step.  Just thinking through the details and writing them down will save you a lot of mistakes and rework later.  Trust me on this. 

You don't need a professional blueprint--just a pencil and paper.  A sheet of graph paper makes this easier.  If you don't have one you can print one from the web

I changed my mind about some dimensions along the way so my plan is mostly to scale.  Notice a few design details:

Step 2: Cut and Label the Plywood Pieces

Picture of Cut and Label the Plywood Pieces

Follow your plan and revise it as needed.  Measure and cut the walls, floor, and roof boards.  To save problems later, be sure all cuts are square.  Label each piece--otherwise it's easy to get a piece out of place.  Trust me on this. 

Brass screws don't rust, but they are soft so pilot holes are important.  Drill them with two different bit sizes.  Holes in the board you are passing through should be the same diameter as the screw shanks.  Holes in the board that the screws are tightened into should be smaller than the screw threads.  Temporarily assemble the pieces to ensure that everything fits correctly.  Hint--place nails in the pilot holes or drive the screws just part way in.

Step 3: Cut and Assemble the Braces, Trim, Shelf, and Door Frame

Picture of Cut and Assemble the Braces, Trim, Shelf, and Door Frame

The roof's end trim pieces fit snugly outside the walls.  Cut the 2"x2" brace for the roof so it fits snugly inside the walls.

The shelf's depth is about 3/4 the depth of the side walls and it rests on braces attached to the side walls.  Position the shelf braces so the shelf has about an inch of clearance below the top brace on the front.

The door frame rests against weatherstrip tape applied to the edges of the side walls, the edge of the floor, the top front brace, and the bottom front brace, so all these surfaces must be flush.  The top front brace is attached to the side walls and the bottom front brace is attached to the floor.

I made the door from a recycled oak mirror frame and cut it down to size.  I used both wood glue and screws to make the two new corners as strong as possible.  Then I cut the clear acrylic window to match the frame.  The clear acrylic can be cut by sawing or by scoring and breaking.  I just used my circular saw with a fine-tooth blade and that worked well.

Step 4: Paint and More Paint

Picture of Paint and More Paint

Paint all the interior surfaces with your favorite waterproof sealer.  I used a translucent oil stain that I had on hand.  Each joint will be glued as well as screwed, so for best glue adhesion avoid painting the surfaces where the glue will be applied.

Paint all the exterior surfaces.  I applied several coats of Rustoleum exterior enamel.  I also added black paint for the covered bridge look.

Step 5: Assemble the Pieces

Picture of Assemble the Pieces

Apply wood glue and screw the brace and trim pieces to the plywood roof.  Cut the flashing and roofing shingles to fit.  Nail or staple them in place.

Apply wood glue and screw the shelf braces, walls, floor, top front brace, and bottom front brace together.

Step 6: Add the Door and Caulk the Interior

Picture of Add the Door and Caulk the Interior

Install the clear acrylic into the door frame with glazier points.  Apply the weatherstrip tape to the edges of the side walls, the edge of the floor, the top front brace, and the bottom front brace.   Attach the door's hook and eye.

Caulk all the inside joints.

Touch up the exterior paint to cover the screw heads.

Add exterior trim pieces if you want yours to look like a covered bridge.  ;-)

Step 7: Build and Install the Post

Picture of Build and Install the Post

Cut a section of 2x8 to match the width of the Little Free Library.  This is the base that rests on top of the post.

Cut off two 12" lengths of the 4"x6"x8' post to make two braces.  Cut the braces at 45-degree angles.  Counterbore each place you will put a lag screw--this will provide clearance around the lag screw head when you tighten it with the socket wrench.  Drill pilot holes for the four lag screws.  Attach the angle braces to the base with lag screws.

Dig a 2' hole and drop in the post.  Pour in the bag of concrete mix and water.  Level the post and let the concrete dry.

Step 8: Install the Little Free Library

Picture of Install the Little Free Library

Set the angle braces and base on the post.  Level the base and use the socket wrench to tighten the lag screws in the angle braces. 

Drill a pilot hole for a lag screw through the base into the post.  Tighten the lag screw to stabilize the base.

Set the library on the base and drill four pilot holes through the floor into the base.  Tighten the four lag screws to secure the library to the base.

Add the roof, the shelf, and the books.  Enjoy your Little Free Library!


makermike (author)2012-08-09

I'm building a Little Free Library at the moment. One addition I'm putting in is a LED light that turns on when the door opens. Can't wait until it's finished and set up!

alanwbaker (author)makermike2012-08-09

What a great idea--I wish mine was close enough to electrical power to do that! How about an arduino with wi-fi that counts the number of times the door opens?

makermike (author)alanwbaker2013-01-26

I hacked a dollar store LED "stick-up" type light to include an external switch that closes when the door opens. Two AAs should run it for quite a while.

TC31 (author)makermike2017-11-28

@makermike, I wondered if the led hack with the switch was ever done or published somewhere. I want to do the same, but don't want to re-invent the wheel

Alan your library was a partial inspiration to ours!

makermike (author)TC312017-11-28

I've done several iterations of the dollar store LED light with an attached switch. Several, because the lights kept getting stolen (homeless people, I suspect). In any case, it's pretty simple to do, just pop apart the plastic case of the light, and put the push switch somewhere in series between the batteries and the LEDs. The key is the switch. It's called a lever switch and is off when the switch is activated and on otherwise. Position the switch so that the lever is moved when the door closes. Hopefully, yours will last longer than mine.

alanwbaker made it! (author)makermike2017-11-28

I've been using an OxyLED Motion Sensor Closet Light for about two years and it works great! It gives just enough light, no switch is needed, and the batteries last for about a year.

TC31 (author)alanwbaker2017-11-29

See! Knowing is half the battle. I had no ideas these existed. Thanks for the tip!

doo da do (author)alanwbaker2012-08-12

You could get battery power or solar if the sun is available. Put a switch on the door.

cpine522 (author)alanwbaker2012-08-12

How about a idigtal camera that takes the person photo when tehy open teh door and loads it to a website via wifi connection. ? :)

edjez (author)alanwbaker2012-08-11

Nice idea- Check out the Electric Imp that is coming out to wifi it on the cheap. If you can do that then a little nice connection to IfThisThenThat could make your library tweet by itself or...

Myself on the other hand somehow see a beauty in the little free library being down-to-earth and low-tech. Maybe less data on it could be an attractive mystery.

alanwbaker (author)edjez2012-08-11

Oooo! The Electric Imp/IFTT idea sounds good--I'd like to use it on another project. But this Little Free Library will continue offline on our unpaved road.

But the concept has caught the imagination of others here in the Green Mountain State--it was just featured on the front page of our local newspaper!

alanwbaker made it! (author)2017-11-28

Wow--it's been 5 years since I posted this Instructable! The library has held up well to the harsh Vermont winters. The weakest point is its door--I had to replace the hinge screws after about 3 years and touch up the paint every year or so.

I also did a slight remodel--in the newer picture below you'll see that I removed the shelf. This made room for an attic where I hide a geocache.

The picture also shows its OxyLED motion sensor light mentioned in the comments elsewhere.

JoeD-63 (author)2017-05-07

What size mirror frame and acrylic piece is needed for this?

alanwbaker (author)JoeD-632017-11-28

The plan above shows that the outer dimensions of the door (mirror frame) are 15-5/8 x 24. The size of the acrylic piece will depend on the frame's inner dimensions.

djkurtz92 (author)2016-01-28

Great project I made mine from pallet wood. My niece got the cover of the local paper for running the library.

Kayley ElizabethY (author)2015-07-08

But ours is take a book leave a book

Kayley ElizabethY (author)2015-07-08

There is one in my neighbourhood!

JonH2O (author)2014-12-24

I really like this but i think this plan is too advanced for me. :( too many DERR moments reading the instructions.

JonH2O (author)JonH2O2014-12-24

The 2"x2"x20-3/4" brace isn't listed in the materials list.

Moem (author)2014-03-09

Great Instructable! I have just built an outdoor bookshelf of my own, also mostly made from reused materials, I'll add a picture.

marijke1962 (author)2014-02-24

thank you for sharing, in Rotterdam ( Holland) , i started a project named BoekenHuisjesProject. My dream is a walking route with a lots of free library's

lperez23 (author)2013-06-14

Thanks for the great tips! For those of you who like to draw your ideas on big paper like I do. I suggest taking a look at they have graph paper templates that go up to poster size.

latexmallard (author)2012-08-09

Great Idea, We have one set up here in Christchurch, NZ, as part of the Gap Filler project. Putting interesting things in place of buildings that collapsed during or were demolished after our Earthquake.

alanwbaker (author)latexmallard2012-08-09

I love the fridge! We're going to visit Christchurch in January. Where is it located?

latexmallard (author)alanwbaker2012-08-12

Currently on the corner of Kimore and Barbadoes Streets, just outside what used to be the CBD. The Gap fillers are likely to move around has more buildings are demolished and the reconstruction starts.

alanwbaker (author)latexmallard2013-06-09

Hi Latexmallard,
I saw your refrigerator library when we visited Christchurch--very creative!

gnomedriver (author)latexmallard2012-08-12

We in NZ look forward to seeing you when you come.
There is a free library in Lyall Bay, Wellington.

It is things like this that keep communities alive. Can’t do that with a Kobo.

excellentsky (author)2013-06-09

where is this located? seems a waste to go through all this trouble if no one is going to use it.

alanwbaker (author)excellentsky2013-06-09

Hi Excellentsky,

This Little Free Library is located in Wilmington, Vermont.  To see the exact location and learn more about it see  You'll also see a picture of the LFL in winter.  I'm pleased to say that it remained water-tight throughout that season.  It just needed a little paint touchup where the wet snow had packed up against the bottom of the door.

It's important to place your LFL where there is pedestrian traffic.  This one is by a gravel road near a lake and hundreds of books came and went during its first few months.  And now that the snows are gone, pedestrians are back and books are flying out the door again.

craftmachine (author)2012-08-28

Very creative! It is a great way to reach out to the community. When I went to Germany I saw one similar to the one you made. I just think that it is both beautiful and will bring the community together to share their favorite reads. Fantastic idea!

ronopotomus (author)2012-08-15

Awesome idea! I'm gonna give it a go.

bricabracwizard (author)2012-08-12

I love what you've created! I will be making one for our yard in Sydney, Australia. I first saw your idea on Technabob. Another thought I had was to create a free swap box for geeks to exchange components or ideas.

Good on ya, Mate. I'll be in Sydney in February--maybe I'll see your LFL then!

Thanks! Do come and pay us a visit. If you need a place for a couple o' days let me know!

Thanks. We'll mostly hang out with bro-in-law in Figtree plus the flash tour of Oz. ;-)

cpine522 (author)2012-08-12

might alos be fun to onclude book crossing in your projects.

No affiliation it is just fun to watch where you books go.

Moem (author)cpine5222012-08-12

Hah! I was just going to post that! :-D
Here's my BookCrossing I'ble. And yes, Little Free Libraries and BookCrossing are a match made in booklovers' heaven.

pepperjordan (author)2012-08-12

I read about these in the Seattle newspaper and really wanted to make one. Great instructable.

bajablue (author)2012-08-12

I love everything about this project!

Beautiful work, Alan!!!

blodefood (author)2012-08-11

Why does it say around the USA when there are many in Canada, too?

alanwbaker (author)blodefood2012-08-11

Fair enough, blodefood. I've changed the wording. 8-)

suayres (author)2012-08-10

Terrific idea! Thanks for posting this. I didn't know there even was such a thing, and it's a brilliant concept.

kampusnosis (author)2012-08-10

I like it. Great idea.

jblessf (author)2012-08-09

Thank you for sharing with all of us. There is still faith in people.

kampusnosis (author)jblessf2012-08-10

I agree, amen.

Bosun Rick (author)2012-08-09

Just in case any of you can't ever seem to get around to doing this kind of project, remember there are "Free Libraries" in the Veterans Hospitals, and the Civilian Hospitals in nearly every city in the world. Just contact their Volunteer Services Office to donate books for our heroes and shut-ins. BOSUN RICK SEZ THANKS!

Ortzinator (author)2012-08-09

This would be great for an apartment building.

georogers (author)2012-08-09

There are two places that I've seen a similar deal.One is a library in Wells River Vt. where the librarian has an old greeting card rack on the Librarie's front porch wher she and others leave books for the taking.The other place that I've run into was a subway station in Porter Square in Cambridge Ma. wher coincidently another greeting card rack was left with a sign that said "Take A Book,Leave A Book".Good stuff!

rolltidehank (author)2012-08-09

This is also the first I've ever heard of it and I wish there was one close by. However, that might be the motivation that I need to make and manage my own! Thanks for the great project!

Wazzupdoc (author)2012-08-09

The whole concept is awesome. We have one inside the local commuter rail station. But it's only open from 0530-1230 while the station agent is there. I might make one to put on the OUTSIDE to service the "night-owls" and anyone else who travels when the station is closed for ticket sales.
How about a little solar pathlight installed so the LED lights up the Library's selections. A little pencil and note pad for comments would be fun too!

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