Little Free Library Ark

Introduction: Little Free Library Ark

Little Free Libraries are popping up all over the country! By creating small, accessible community spaces where people can drop off and pick up books for free, Little Free Libraries promote literacy. My Little Free Library dream is to install LFLs in front of food pantries all over OKC and surrounding towns. To get the party started, I will begin by constructing an LFL which I can hopefully place in front of my synagogue.

My LFL design is inspired by the ark where we keep the Torah. In my synagogue, the ark lives on the bimah (altar). I wanted to make something reminiscent of this Torah ark because my library will hopefully be installed in front of the synagogue, and this unique design will be especially significant for the community it will be serving. My vision is for the Hebrew School students to take over the project and make it their own, by keeping it stocked with books and being empowered to maintain it.

I would also like the ark to have a small rooftop garden atop the bookshelf structure. It would also be cool to include a chalkboard or corkboard where the neighborhood could leave announcements, notes, posters for community events, and so forth. This additional detail would make my LFL a multi-functional community resource.

I have 5 weeks to complete this project for my Makerspace course at OU. The idea is to make something, keep a journal, and document the process of making-- all while exploring new technology in the documentation process. Finally, the project should allow for some self-reflection and group feedback. Here we go!

Step 1: Formulate a Plan.

Plan plan plan...

I found that just formulating my LFL plan was a very lengthy process. It was actually a little addictive to pin and take notes and research designs! The LFL website has actual libraries for purchase, but who has $200 to spend on an outdoor bookshelf?? It is just going to get rained on anyway. I want to construct something with a low, accessible budget, utilizing found objects and upcycling resources that are free or low cost.

Pinterest is awesome for browsing and brainstorming. Evernote has also been helpful for idea generating and keeping track of my notes...

However, if you spend all of your time planning, readjusting your plan, researching all the other plans out there, and comparing your plan to other peoples plans, you might not finish your project in time, just a heads up.

I started my little library project with a PLAN:

1.) make a little free library.

2.) put library outside.

3.) free books for everyone!

Step 2: Create a Plan

When I drew up my plan, I took measurements and thought about how it would look completely constructed as a little library that will live outside. I ran into a major issue actually in that I've never even used an electric saw before! However, I do have access to tools, and 'where there is a will there is a way.' Right?!?

The OU campus has a couple of great inventors' spaces I would also like to utilize. The Hub has 3D printers available for students and community members alike. I think it would be cute to add 3D printed bookends, or Hebrew letters to decorate the bookshelf with. I have also thought about using the EDGE to construct my shelf, where I would have access to tools and experts. Makerspaces are Rad!

if you got them USE THEM!

I would like to add a solar light, but I don't plan on making mine as techy as Ben Heck.

I want to use free stuff as much as possible, recycle, reuse, repurpose.

Step 3: Incorporate Found Objects Into Plan

I secured a nice little cabinet at a garage sale. Given that I have not gleaned any carpentry skills in the last couple of weeks, this find was a quite the leg up for this little library project. The new plan is to transform this curio cabinet into a little free library. I asked a wise man at Home Depot, my partner Jason, and my stepdad (Michael) for advice on how to weatherize this piece of furniture, and now I feel that I am ready to get started with the building!

I will need to sand it and paint it with an outdoor paint. The cabinet had glass shelves and glass cabinet doors, which will need to be replaced with plexiglass windows and wooden shelves. The cabinet has a small electrical light that I will likely replace with a small solar battery light. The project will require more space to work then I have at home, so I will be working on the weekends at my stepdads house (thank you Michael) where I will have the expertise and space and tools to borrow. so onwards ahoy, and were off to the making; this will be the best little library the world has ever seen!

Step 4: Take the Cabinet Apart

Removing the screws and disassembling the shelf was not too hard. I have used a cordless drill before (I'm not a complete novice). the work went smoothly with the use of power tools. The hardware and screws will be replaced with stronger materials that can handle the elements much better. The extra hardware was free donated by Michael for the little library cause.

One thing I learned here, that I should probably mention to help you the future maker.

Document the process you use in deconstructing your cabinet. Use your camera and take photos of the hinges for example, how are they faced, inwards or outwards. I am not an experienced builder, but I learned that it's imperative to know how you took something apart so that you can replicate the process when putting it back together. docu

Step 5: Stripping the Wood.

This step was important, but I was going to skip it. My stepdad(Michael) forced me to re-evaluate my plan and to strip the wood before moving on to sanding. Stripping the wood was a very sticky job, it took me a few coats to remove the sticky varnish and paint. After stripping the wood I washed each piece with hot water to remove the sticky leftover residue. This process took me like 6 hours! They really make it look a lot easier on TV.

Step 6: Sanding

I bought three types of sandpaper: coarse, fine, and ultrafine. In the end, the wood stripper did all the work. I had thought I was going to be using the sandpaper more, but I ended up only needed to use the fine sandpaper to finish the job after stripping the cabinet. The little mouse sander worked awesome, clearing the wood of any leftover paint and debris. After a quick sanding job, my cabinet was ready for its first coat of paint. Next I'll paint the cabinet.

Step 7: Stain the Wood.

I was able to score paint on sale at the Home Depot. The paint I'm using was only $2 per can (!!Winning!!), because it was mis-mixed. Hey future maker, if you're not picky about color, a great way to save some cash is to scout out mis-mixed paints. These are produced when somebody asks the paint department to mix up a color, did not like how the color turned out, and rejected it-- so the store marks it down. Look for mis-mixes at the back of the paint aisle, or ask your friendly Home Depot dude. I purchased two colors: a light brown and a dark brown. I thought the two colors would add dimension while producing a nice layering effect.

Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures after applying the first coat of paint, because by the time I had finished I had lost daylight. I would have liked to have gotten the second coat on before the sun went down too, but alas, there are only so many hours in a day.

This is where my project had to briefly pause. I was in need of a short trip to re-energize with good friends and good coffee. I wanted to complete my little free library, but I'm running out of time. Please don't fret, viewer of this instructable-- I'll finish up the project, but it's going to take me an extra week or two. Please stay tuned...

Step 8: Reassemble (spoken in Robot # 5's Voice, the Opposite of Disassemble

Because of the grace of G-D and my inability to follow a calendar correctly, I have more time to finish my project on time!

So... as I mentioned earlier, it is crucial to the project's outcome to document and remember how you disassembled your cabinet in order to reassemble it the same way.

A Head's Up for the Maker: take pictures of hinges, hardware, and screws. If you don't you might be left with a bag of assorted screws and washers, unsure of which hole to stick which screw in.

The hinges are tricky! You need to know how to set up your hinge. If you take pictures you will know if the hinge faces inwards or outward. I tried both ways, but I was not able to get my cabinet doors to line up the right way. I did find some helpful reference videos on Youtube, and now I have a better understanding of the ins and outs of the Butt Hinge.

I put the cabinet together (mostly), and then I applied the second coat of stain/paint. To strengthen and weatherize the cabinet, I reinforced the screws with wood glue and replaced the original dainty screws with more heavy duty ones. I found out the hard way that when you replace dainty screws with bigger ones you should first drill a larger hole, I think this is why my wood cracked. I will have to add more wood glue!

Step 9: Finishing Touches

Now that I have reconstructed a solid cabinet ready for the elements I just have a few finishing touches to complete this project.

1.) measure and fit the cabinet with plexiglass

2.) cut shelf from found wood scraps

3.) mount fence posts to the cabinet legs

4.) put rooftop garden atop cabinet

5.) add 3D printed bookends and decorations

6.) fill the cabinet with books.

Outdoor Structures

Participated in the
Outdoor Structures

Reclaimed Contest 2017

Participated in the
Reclaimed Contest 2017

Be the First to Share


    • Science Fair Challenge

      Science Fair Challenge
    • Tinkercad to Fusion 360 Challenge

      Tinkercad to Fusion 360 Challenge
    • Digital Fabrication Student Design Challenge

      Digital Fabrication Student Design Challenge



    1 year ago

    CSV = Comma-seperated Values

    Tab ("\t", U+0009) seperated values is a better format. It avoids the nested-quote issue, and one can paste it directly into spreadsheets

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Awesome! I love these free libraries. They are like a geocache for books.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Yes! LFL are awesome!