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Many of us grew up with fond memories of going to the Public Library with our parents or grandparents.  Some will remember waiting for the Bookmobile to come.  Or participating in Pizza Hut’s Book It summer reading program.  Libraries, of course, are still alive and well and going strong today.  But now there’s another way to share books even closer to home – with one of the many Little Free Libraries of Madison.

The Little Free Libraries Facebook page estimates that Madison may have the highest density of libraries per person of any city in the world!  Here’s a little background:

“There are hundreds of Little Free Libraries in Madison and thousands of people who use them.  Some neighborhoods have a dozen or more, some with benches, landscaping, solar lighting and rooftop gardens.  Even more interesting are their collections of reading material.  Many of the Libraries were built or brought here in 2010 and 2011 through the auspices of Absolutely Art, a heroic and wonderful community resource.  Do you know someone who has a Library that’s not yet registered or on the map? (enter the info on the FB page) The more the merrier…and the more books, ideas and goodwill we can share.”

As mentioned above, the program was launched in the Madison area more than a decade ago – in 2010.  Madison immediately got on board – and as of a year ago, there were more than 400 little libraries installed throughout the city.  You can now find them in 85 countries and in all 50 U.S. states.

What is a Little Free Library BookmarkSo what exactly is a Little Free Library?  It’s a non-profit neighborhood book exchange housed in a small box – most often in the shape of a house – that businesses and residents put out on their property for anyone to enjoy.  Anyone can take a book or leave a book from the Little Library – or both.

Those interested in hosting a Little Free Library can build their own (there are a lot of amazing designs out there!) or order a kit from LittleFreeLibrary.org.  As for filling them, library “founders” often start out with books they have read, enjoyed and finished reading themselves.  Books can be for children or adults, both fiction and non-fiction.  The beauty of Little Free Libraries is that the inventory changes continuously.  The books are generally pre-owned (and pre-loved) but new books are certainly welcome.  Just don’t feel like you need to go out and buy a new book to participate.  And if you do install a Little Free Library, be sure to register it so it will get added to the master map for readers ( and donors) trying to find them.

Something Cool Inside LabelThey were especially popular in the early days of the pandemic when people were home, but public libraries were closed.  Although they generally are used just for books (and are not intended as a place for people to leave other unwanted items) someone in the Monroe Street neighborhood donated one free mask each day last summer. Another example of people helping other people.

Check out these photos of just some of the little libraries around the Madison area.  If you keep an eye out for them, you’ll be surprised at how many you see!  More and more are cropping up throughout Madison and Dane County all the time.  There’s sure to be a book out there that you’ll enjoy – and another reader who’ll be delighted with a treasured book passed on from you.