Take a Book, Leave a Book: Seattle’s Little Free Library

Have you heard? Full-sized libraries are a thing of the past. The checkout lines, the due dates (that you always seem to forget), the hush-hush whispering policy, the furlough weeks? Forget about it! It’s likely that you’ve seen the newest way to get new books right in your own neighborhood, without even realizing it. The Little Free Library program began in Wisconsin in 2009 and in less than five years, has swept the nation (and even the world — there are locations on nearly every continent now!), spreading the love for neighbors to pass books along to each other. Here in Seattle, we love our neighborhoods, and from the looks of the new Little Free Libraries popping up each month, it’s pretty clear that we love to share as well!

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So, What are Little Free Libraries?

If you saw a Little Free Library as you were walking in your neighborhood, you’d likely think that it was a large bird house… that is in front of someone’s house… near the sidewalk. However, on closer inspection, you’ll find that this “bird house” is actually a Little Library and it’s stuffed to the brim with books! Every Little Library, depending on its neighborhood and location, will have different books to choose from — all that have been left by others to share with their neighbors — from novels, to recent magazines, to non-fiction books, to new release hardback books. The libraries are owned by the home that they belong to and run on the honor system — you’re welcome to take the books that you’d like to read and are expected to leave a book or two (or three!) when you visit. Most Little Libraries also include pieces of paper and pens, so that you can leave a little note in the book that says who you are or what you loved about it (we suggest having your kids make their own little note at home — much quicker and easier than on the sidewalk!).

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How does it Work?

While you’re certainly not required to leave a book, it’s polite and common practice to do so. Before you head out to your closest Little Library, have your kiddos grab a book or two from their own collection that they’re ready to pass on to someone else. Set the rules before you go — they are required to leave the books they bring to the Little Library, regardless of whether there is a book there that they’d like to bring home — consider these their first lessons in good karma, with the idea that another kid will hopefully take the books that they left and leave them something cool for the next time you visit. Some Little Libraries are more likely to have kid-friendly content than others and if you’re willing to hop around between a few Little Libraries, you’ll likely find something that will catch your kids’ eyes.

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Where do I Find One in My Seattle Neighborhood?

Find your GPS app on your phone, grab that stack of books you’ve been meaning to take drop off at Goodwill and get going! With 38 Little Free Libraries in Seattle listed below, and more in the surrounding areas, there is sure to be one within walking or driving-range to you and your kids.

Ballard:
1529 NW 62nd Street, Seattle
7555 23rd Avenue NW, Seattle
2825 NW 71st Street, Seattle
8728 18th Avenue NW, Seattle

Central District:
210 30th Avenue East, Seattle

Eastside:
16715 SE 35th Street, Bellevue

Georgetown:
738 South Orcas Street, Seattle

Green Lake:
6819 Aurora Avenue North, Seattle
5738 Ashworth Avenue North, Seattle
831 North 57th Street, Seattle

Greenwood:
334 North 83rd Street, Seattle
116 North 78th Street, Seattle

Laurelhurst:
5540 37th Avenue NE, Seattle
5537 31st Avenue NE, Seattle

Maple Leaf:
11322 34th Avenue NE, Seattle

Magnolia:
28th Avenue West, Seattle, (two blocks south of West McGraw Street)
4042 33rd Avenue West, Seattle

Pinehurst:
2024 NE 113th Street, Seattle

Queen Anne:
2129 Second Avenue West, Seattle
15 McGraw Street, Seattle
165 Aloha Street, Seattle

Ravenna:
NE 82nd Street, Seattle (between 22nd & 23rd Avenues NE)
1211 NE 70th Street, Seattle
7309 Ravenna Avenue NE, Seattle
7009 23rd Avenue NE, Seattle

South Seattle:
10053 63rd Avenue South, Seattle
3422 16th Avenue South, Seattle
5107 46th Avenue South, Seattle
2107 29th Avenue South, Seattle
3307 Lafayette Avenue South, Seattle
12244 76th Avenue South, Seattle
706 31st Avenue South, Seattle
1318 South Pearl Street, Seattle

Wallingford:
1815 North 47th Street, Seattle
411 North 46th Street, Seattle

West Seattle:
3205 38th Avenue SW, Seattle
9220 Fauntleroy Way SW, Seattle
11052 19th Avenue SW, Seattle

There seem to be other Little Free Libraries that aren’t listed on the map (click here and scroll through to get to Washington) and there are also dozens of Little Free Libraries in the areas surrounding Seattle, including Shoreline, Tacoma, Renton and Mount Lake Terrace, just to name a few.

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Can We Have Our Own Little Free Library?

You can! If your kids have fallen in love with the Little Free Libraries, or you’d like to get the program started in your own neighborhood, you can build your own. There are detailed instructions on their website that include plans and tips from other Little Free Library owners. The only cost, besides materials, is the official Little Free Library signs, which are $40 each. Not only will your own Little Free Library be a great lesson for your kids in giving back to the community, but imagine all of the kids’ books you can sneak out there after your little ones have gone to bed!

Visit the Little Free Library website for more information about the program.

Did we miss your Little Free Library on our list or do you know of one in your neighborhood that isn’t listed? Please let us know via email at katiekavulla@gmail.com or in a comment below.

– Katie Kavulla, story and photos