100 Scope Notes
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Little Free Libraries: Overrated or Underrated?

Whenever you discover that something you thought was universally loved is not, in fact, universally loved, it can be a shock.

It can also be enlightening.

That was the case when I read some recent conversations online (beginning with this tweet by @himissjulie, and continued by @readitrealgood and others) about the not great aspects of Little Free Libraries.

I was originally going to title this piece: Little Free Libraries: The Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Use Again, mainly because I liked the reference. But I stopped myself, because I don’t necessarily feel that way. I’ve used them. I’ve seen kids use them. They give me a little hope.

In the school district where I work, our curriculum director has made a big push over the last few years to install Little Free Libraries around town. It’s been a positive.

But there are other ways to look at the matter. Things I hadn’t considered before diving into the online conversation. Like how you’re more likely to find them in well-to-do neighborhoods. And if left alone, they can accumulate a lot of junky books no one wants to read. These are very good points.

Like I said earlier – I’m feeling enlightened.

So what do you say? Are Little Free Libraries overrated? Underrated? Tell me your opinion and why in the comments.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. While it is true that there is nothing junkier in this great, green world than an untended Little Free Library, and also true that they tend to be located in the least needed locations, I gotta say I’m in favor of the ones done well. I’ve one outside my home that I fill daily and boy howdy has it gotten some nice compliments from folks. Now, granted, my position is strange because I have an unending supply of material with which I can fill it, but it’s on a busy pedestrian street and with the possible exception of the grad students across the street (no one wants your junky Demotic Greek I textbook, dudes) the books that go in are fairly fascinating.

  2. Brittany says

    Little free libraries are as good as their steward. Ones without anyone watching them aren’t the best. They can experience vandalism, damage from weather, or as your said accumulate old junky books among other things. Without someone who cares taking care of it and investing time and yes money it, yes they’re a waste. A well loved lfl is a good one!