Check it Out: Little Free Library

Rate this post

Writer & Photographer / JJ Kaplan

If you take a stroll around Carmel, you might just come across a small wooden box with a window that contains books and a small sign that says, “Little Free Library”. Inside you will find an assortment of books to read at your leisure. Feel free to take one with you. When you are done, you can return it, or replace it with another, or keep the book and “give it forward” in some other way down the road. This is just one local example of a growing community movement around the United States and 36 countries called Little Free Library.

The Carmel Clay Public Library has partnered with Clay Township and Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation on the location of three Little Free Libraries so they are easily accessible and visible. In addition, the library wanted to ensure these initial boxes were evenly dispersed across Carmel, resulting in eastside, south central and westside locations. The Friends of the Carmel Clay Public Library accept donations of books at any time on behalf of the library.

There is never a due date or late fee. The goal is simply to inspire a love of reading, kindness, and community sharing.
Currently, the Little Free Libraries are in the following locations:
– Outside the John W. Hensel Government Center, 10701 N. College Avenue
– West Park, 2700 W. 116th Street (just west of the 116th St. and Towne Road intersection)
– Founders Park, 11675 Hazel Dell Parkway (intersection of 116th St. and Hazel Dell)

The Little Free Library movement was started by Todd Bol and Nick Brooks in 2009. The idea was popularized in Hudson, Wisconsin, when Bol mounted a wooden container designed to look like a school house on a post on his lawn as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and schoolteacher. Bol shared his idea with Rick Brooks, who found many efficient ways to spread the word, and the idea spread rapidly.

Library owners can create their own library box, usually about the size of a dollhouse, or purchase one from the website. Libraries may be registered for a fee and assigned a number at the organization’s website. Libraries can be found through their GPS coordinates. Owners receive a sign that reads “Little Free Library”. They often have the phrase, “Take a Book. Leave a Book.”

As of February 2013, all 50 states and 40 countries worldwide have been involved in the program. The original goal was the creation of 2,150 Little Free Libraries, which would surpass the number of libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie. As of January 2014, there are more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide. An estimated 1,650,000 books were donated and borrowed from 2010–2013.

In addition to the Carmel Clay Public Library sponsoring the libraries, individuals may also house a Little Free Library to proudly display in their front yard. There are many neighborhoods across the country that boast several libraries, in which neighbors create walking routines to visit and maintain them. Some even specialize in particular topics, such as travel, cooking, or photography, to name a few.

Help in decorating the three Little Free Libraries is something that the library is considering for the future. As Beth Jenneman, Communications Manager at Carmel Clay Public Library, explains, “We may host a contest or we may have teen artists decorate, or even create, new little libraries. This would be a fun way to get the community involved and to have a variety of designs and styles of boxes. Stay tuned!”

One established Little Free Library in Zionsville is operated by Courtney and Scott Gorman in their front yard on Main Street. Decorated with banners, wallpaper inside, and a resident gnome at the base, they enjoy changing and decorating their little box. Courtney receives little notes of appreciation, new quality books, the joy of seeing others embrace reading and giving, and her children participating in and witnessing it all. Her own life has been warmed by her simple gift of giving that resulted in unexpected blessings.

The sky’s the limit is how the Little Free Libraries are growing, each with a distinctive flair and theme. It will be exciting to see how the Carmel community embraces and brings a unique flavor to the little library. So if you are in the area, stop by and “check out” one of Carmel’s Little Free Libraries and the books inside. Take one, and ENJOY!

For more information about Little Free Libraries, call the reference desk at the Carmel Clay Public Library at 317-844-3362 or visit

Leave a Reply