Our Neighborhood Little Free Library

We wanted to share a project we added to our Springfield bnb, which we lovingly call the holiday house. We built and set out this mini house that is a neighborhood little free library. If you’ve never seen one of these before, the concept is pretty straightforward. Anyone can walk by and add books or take books from the neighborhood library. That’s it. We have officially registered ours with little free library so you can find it on their map.

Here’s the map to ours on their website.

I stocked our neighborhood library with books I’d already read and a few childhood favorites just before our city began sheltering in place. The public libraries were already closing temporarily, so it seemed like a good time to go ahead and have this available to the neighborhood where our holiday house is located. As I was filling the library with what I had, a middle-aged man across the street (who was out on a walk) asked me if I was taking or leaving. I told him I was leaving and he said he’d be back by later to check it out, which made me smile.

Here is how we created our neighborhood free little library:

-three 2′ x 4′ x 3/4″ plywood
-two 2′ x 4′ x 1/4″ plywood
-twelve 3.5″ x 4′ x 3/4″ boards
-ten 2.5″ x 4′ x 1/2″ boards
-eleven 1.5″ x 4′ x 1/2″ boards
-one 18″ x 24″ x .080″ acrylic sheet
-two 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 3′ boards
flex tape
waterproof caulk
-exterior paint
-four hinges
-two door catches
-two small handles
-wood glue

circular saw
miter saw
2.5″ hole saw
-nail gun
-measuring square
-measuring tape
-plastic/acrylic cutter

Start by cutting your bottom, back and side pieces to these dimensions out of your 3/4″ plywood—bottom board 14″ x 3′ and back board 13″ x 3.’ The side boards are 14″ x 22″ with two 35º angles cut at the top on either side to make the pitch of the roof.

Using wood glue and a nail gun, attach the back and side boards to the bottom board. Next, cut your 1/4″ plywood into two 14″ x 40″ pieces and attach them to the top to make the roof as shown above.

Put a piece of Flex Tape along the roof seam. This is to help make it waterproof. You could also use waterproof caulk in the seam instead, but over time it could start to leak, so i used the Flex Tape because it’s waterproof and will last forever basically.

Next, cut your 3.5″ x 4′ x 3/4″ boards to fit on the back and sides with 45º cuts on the ends and attach with glue and the nail gun. Then, to fill in the top angled part of the sides, trace the area on a scrap piece of 3/4″ plywood, one for each side and cut with a circular saw and attach with glue and a nail gun. Next, take a 2.5″ hole saw and drill a hole in each side of the library to make little windows.

Now, get 8 of your 2.5″ x 4′ x 1/2″ boards and cut them to the same length as the roof and attach them. Next, take a piece of the 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 3′ boards and attach it to the top to fill in the gap left from the 2.5″ boards. Next, grab your 1.5″ x 3′ x 1/2″ boards and cut them to 14″ with 45º cuts at the top and attach as shown above.Then, cut some 1″ pieces of 3.5″ x 3/4″ of wood with 45º cuts on the ends and attach to front of the library. Also take a piece of 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 3′ boards and attach along the bottom front as shown above.Next, for the doors! When the doors are closed they will be flush with the outside edge of the front of the library, so they will need to fit inside the front opening, so measure the front opening and cut the doors to those measurements. Take your 1.5″ x 3′ x 1/2″ boards and cut 8 pieces per door with 45º cuts on each end. Then take your acrylic sheet and cut it to fit in between the pieces of 1.5″ x 3′ x 1/2″ boards. Attach the acrylic sheet in between the pieces of wood using glue and screws as shown above, making sure to pre-drill your holes as to not crack the acrylic. Repeat the process for the other door.

Next, paint everything your desired color—we chose white with a black roof! Cut two small pieces of the acrylic sheet and attach them to the inside where the circle windows are. Attach the doors with the hinges and add a center piece of 1.5″ x 3′ x 1/2″ wood in between the doors, and attach your door catches. Also, if you want to add the detail on the front of the doors like ours, simply grab some small scrap pieces of the 1/4″ plywood you should have left over from the roof and trace any design you want with a pencil and cut out with a jigsaw and attach with glue and a nail gun. Add your desired handles and the DIY library house is done.

Then, this little house made its way to Missouri, where we installed it in place.

We wanted the library to be secure, but we also didn’t want to make it a permanent feature to the yard (in case we sell the house one day and the new owner doesn’t want this keep this where it is). We also wanted it to be located on our property but be easy for people out on walks to access without needing to go into our yard or get too close to the house, just for guest/tenant privacy.

I had this old cement planter in my backyard that I wasn’t using; it had actually been left by the previous owner of my house. So, Ethan filled that with cement and a mailbox stand. We attached the little house to this and painted the whole thing black so it blends in, and also can hold up to getting a little outdoor dirt on it.

We positioned the little free library in our yard on the edge of a mulch bed we already had. I liked the look of this and I wanted to make sure it was easy for our lawn care guy to work around when he mows. It’s also far enough away that if it was knocked over (which would be difficult, as it’s very heavy) it won’t end up in the driveway, potentially damaging a vehicle. Below, you can see how far away from the public sidewalk it is. We have a slight slope that leads down the sidewalk, so we had to work around that too. But I think this ended up looking nice, is secure, and easy to access for neighbors.

As I finish books, I now have a place to take them, which I’m really excited about! I hope the neighborhood enjoys it. Thanks for letting us share! xo. Emma & Elsie

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman and Collin DuPree. Photography: Katie Day and Collin DuPree. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop. Project Assistance: Ethan Randolph.
  • This is so cool! I love that it’s moveable, since we can’t put a permanent structure up without a permit. Do you have plans for this to share? Your description is great, but if you have blueprints, that would be a HUGE help!!

  • Your free little library looks so inviting and right at home in its pretty garden space. Several homes in our neighborhood have a little free library in their front yards, I love the treasures inside of them and the touch of whimsy they add to the yards. We live less than a mile from the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, MO (not far from you!) a busy place for walkers of all ages, the perfect place for a little free library. Thank you for sharing your design plan and supplies list, I can’t wait to get started on our library!

  • I LOVE the little free library and the whole idea behind it! I’m planning on doing one of these in our neighborhood (my front yard). Did you have to get town/city approval for placement of the library?

  • I LOVE this so much! These little free libraries are all over Denver, CO, and I frequent them all the time. I’ve found some seriously great reads in them!

  • It truly a great neighborhood gift my son and is family made one years ago but because of Covid 19they turned it into a temporary food bank❤️ people take and leave The world is good ?we just need to try a bit harder ☮️

  • This is such a great idea! We have one in the city but it’s a long ways away from where we live. 🙂

  • The neighborhood library at the end of our street has been a Godsend during this pandemic! I’ve read and exchanged so many books there over the past 10 weeks, and some people leave old magazines, which my kids cut up for collages! What a great addition to your Holiday House.

  • Hi!

    Can you please tell me how one rents the Holiday house from you in Springfield? Thanks!

    • Hi! It’s not available yet, but we will post on the blog/Instagram once it’s listed on AirBnb 🙂

  • Can you guys pretty please list the summer reading recommendations you shared in the Instagram story along with this awesome project? ?

  • Such a lovely idea! In Stockholm, where I live, they set up these free libraries in old wooden telephone booths, a wonderful way to at once preserve things from the past as well as spread the joy of a good read <3

  • Love this post! I adore Little Free Libraries (I just got two books from one yesterday and I left two, as well). This one looks like the mini version of the house, which makes it extra fun. Thanks for bringing attention to these wonderful libraries.

  • Oh I love that.. I used to tell my husband I’d love one in our front yard but time escapes us and we’ve never had the time to actually do it.. Plus we wonder about weather proofing.. we live in New Jersey so would we able to keep it up during rain and snow.. wouldn’t want the books to get ruined.

  • I LOVE this! I don’t live in a “neighborhood” so it wouldn’t work in my area but what a sweet idea.

  • We are in escrow for our first home, and now I’m SO excited to make our own Little Free Library. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before – I utilize the ones around my current neighborhood all the time and books are my love language.

    I even created a short form comedy series about a “millennial book club gone horribly wrong” last year: https://www.youtube.com/werefinetv

    It’s settled…first project for our new home! Thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

  • My husband & I recently completed our Little Free Library as well. We used an old cabinet to create a log cabin library because we live in a log home. I love how Little Free Libraries are so unique!

  • I love the look of yours!! We have one just a few houses down and it just makes our street feel a thousand times cozier and magical. It’s definitely a favorite thing for my boys and I to go visit and nothing makes us happier then to pass books along to our fellow neighbors.

  • Great idea we have a few where I live. I also noticed one for cans goods for people to take if needed and add to. Love your blog.

    • Yes, I’ve seen those in Kansas City where I live. I saw a note on one for ours that is called http://kcsoulpantry.com/ – but they mention a nationwide movement/map for http://www.littlefreepantry.org/ 🙂

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